Legendary Bears center Jay Hilgenberg made no secret of how much he liked going head-up, particularly against defensive tackles who had been No. 1 draft choices coming into the NFL. Hilgenberg was undrafted, took a special relish in whipping the biggest names, and was rewarded with seven Pro Bowl selections.
Hall of Fame defensive tackle John Randle, also undrafted out of Texas A&M University-Kingsville (which also produced Hall of Fame’rs Gene Upshaw and Darrell Green), used draft others’ draft status for himself and as psychological warfare against the supposed elite offensive linemen even on his own team.
“I remember training camp and these big guys would come in from Michigan, Alabama, Notre Dame, and I would go all Andy Griffith on them: ‘Boy, that’s sure a nice school,’” Randle told CSNChicago.com, laughing. “I came from a town of 150. So here’s training camp, no big crowds, and ‘it’s just you and I. Michigan vs. Texas A&I. You’re supposed to beat me. But what it you don’t?’
“That was part of my mentality.”
Bears rookie Jeremy Langford could let himself use his fourth-round draft selection this year as motivation. After all Langford was among the NCAA’s leading rushers last season (1,522) yet was the ninth running back taken in this year’s draft in spite of rushing for 40 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards in his two seasons starting at Michigan State.
Now, for the second week in a row, Langford is on the same field with one of the running backs selected ahead of him – far ahead of him, in fact.
Last Monday it was Melvin Gordon, taken 15th overall by the San Diego Chargers. Langford had the far better day, besides winning, with 72 yards and 4.0 per carry vs. Gordon’s 31 yards and 2.8 per carry.
Sunday in St. Louis it will be Todd Gurley, drafted 10th overall despite coming off a torn ACL. Gurley has made history with his rookie run of four 100-yard games (ended last Sunday vs. Minnesota).
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Langford, however, is less concerned about showing that he was the better back than with blitz pickup against a rush that ranks second in the NFL in sack percentage with 27 sacks spread among 14 different players (the Bears’ current roster has five players with sacks).
“I wouldn’t say it’s on my mind, really,” Langford said. “We won’t actually be competing against each other, except maybe to have fun with it.
“That’s never really been me. I’ll be looking at the scoreboard as far as who’s winning. But I’ll have enough to worry about with taking care of my quarterback against that defense.”