INDIANAPOLIS — Former Stanford running back Bryce Love has one glaring flaw, according to his college position coach: Sometimes he works too hard for his own good.
“He needs to rest,” Stanford running back coach Ron Gould said. “When guys are sleeping, he’s working.”
Love could have been one of the top picks in the 2018 draft after finishing his junior season with 263 carries for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns. He won the Doak Walker Award as the top running back in the nation, finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting behind quarterback Baker Mayfield and his draft stock was on the rise.
But he surprised everyone by returning to Stanford for his senior season to finish his degree in human biology with plans to become a pediatrician after his football days are over. Things did not go as planned.
After battling an ankle injury throughout his final year, Love tore the ACL in his right knee in Stanford’s final regular season game. He finished the year with 166 carries for 739 yards and six touchdowns. Now, his draft status is far less certain.
He's projected to be a late-round pick -- draftscout.com has him going in the 5th round -- but potentially could be a steal for the team that takes him.
While the 49ers have Jerrick McKinnon returning from injury and were happy with Matt Breida's production, the Raiders could definitely be a fit. Oakland is facing uncertainty surrounding the futures of Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin, who are both free agents.
Love remains very upbeat and reports that he is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation, with a plan to be ready toward the middle of his first NFL training camp. Gould said Love has been optimistic and positive since the first day they met.
“You see a guy who has a smile on his face,” Gould said. “Sometimes that can be misconstrued. The thing that this young man is, I’ve talked about how brilliant he is, but he’s one of the toughest players I’ve ever coached. He’s ultra, ultra, ultra competitive.
"That's the stuff you can't measure. The thing he's been able to do after suffering that (ankle) injury, to play through that, you don't see that throughout the country. Behind closed doors he is grinding and fighting."
Gould is so supportive of his former running back that he stood in the scrum at Love’s media availability at the NFL Scouting Combine to ask him a question. He wanted to make sure that Love articulated his mentality from his wildly successful junior campaign to his more challenging senior season.
“My biggest thing that I learned beyond anything else, was patience,” Love answered. “Being a player, not necessarily getting frustrated in the moment, but taking it one play at a time.”
At 5-foot-8 7/8 and 200 pounds, Love says there are a lot of successful backs his size. Former Stanford teammate and current Carolina Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey is someone who is not only an example, but has been influential in his football career.
“That’s my guy,” Love said. “I learned so much from him when he was at Stanford and even how he’s handled it out in Charlotte. He’s a great guy, a great leader and a great mentor. I’m thankful for him.”
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Through it all, Love says that he has no regrets about his decision and knows that the people most important to him understand his mentality. His teammates, coaches and family know why he chose the path he took. He spoke about his most important takeaway from his support system.
“One of the biggest things they taught me was not to dwell on things,” Love said. “Move on and accept what they are.”