INDIANAPOLIS — Ryquell Armstead wasn’t supposed to become one of the best running backs in Temple history.
No one told him.
At the NFL combine this week, Armstead thought back to his first training camp at Temple in 2015. The Millville, New Jersey, native reckons he was about seventh on the depth chart upon his arrival. He even came in the same class as four-star recruit T.J. Simmons.
It didn’t matter.
“I was breaking 40-yard runs every day at practice,” Armstead said. “Then they started working me with the ones the next week. I was still breaking runs.”
And he didn’t stop. Armstead ended up playing in 10 games as a freshman and went on to rush for over 2,800 yards in his four collegiate seasons. His 2018 season was his best in college; he rushed for over 1,000 yards and piled up 13 touchdowns.
Despite his standing when he arrived to North Philly, Armstead remained confident. He said he showed up to that camp weighing 225 pounds and immediately dropped 20 pounds and become more explosive.
“I take football very serious,” Armstead said. “I’ve been playing since I was 6 years old. But at the end of the day, coaches hadn’t seen me yet in pads. When camp came around, I just wanted to show them what I could do. That’s what I did. I’m very confident in myself. I know what I’m capable of doing, on and off the field. That’s what I did.”
Oh yeah, and his daughter Rykail was born the day before camp began. That’s part of the reason why it meant so much to him to stay local and go to Temple. Similarly, it would mean a ton to him if a local team were to draft him now that his daughter is 3 years old. As of Thursday, he had already met with the Eagles, Giants and Jets.
In each of the last three years, the Eagles have brought in a local running back. In 2016, it was Wendell Smallwood from Wilmington, Delaware. In 2017, it was Corey Clement from Glassboro, New Jersey. And in 2017, it was Josh Adams from Warrington, Pennsylvania. Armstead even remembers playing against Glassboro and Clement in a scrimmage his freshman year in high school.
Could that trend continue this year with Armstead?
“Philadelphia is like home for me right now just being there four years in college,” he said. “Whatever team drafts me, I’m going to be happy and grateful for the opportunity, but at the end of the day, I’m here to play ball and compete at a high level.”
At the Senior Bowl, Armstead had a very good showing and much of his pre-draft process has been spent trying to prove to teams that he can become a receiver out of the backfield. He wasn’t used that way at Temple, but Armstead thinks he’ll show everyone he can do it. And his 4.46 time in the 40-yard dash should help his stock too.
Armstead’s college career came on the tails of an impressive football and track career at Millville High School. He was a standout football player and was a three-time all-conference track star. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing at Millville. He was kicked off the team as a sophomore for behavioral issues.
In 2014, his high school coach Jason Durham told The Daily Journal in Vineland that it was a “culmination of little things” that led to his dismissal from the team.
“I stayed true to myself. I know what I’m capable of doing,” Armstead said on Thursday. “Things just didn’t work out that year. I took track serious and I came back the next year and had a helluva junior year.”
He did have a helluva junior year and senior year too. And then he worked his way from seventh on the depth chart into a likely draft pick in April. Next stop is the NFL.
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