Former Boise State tailback Jay Ajayi and former Wisconsin tailback Melvin Gordon chased each other for the national touchdown lead throughout the 2014 season. They tied — with 32 each.
Some NFL Draft analysts say they’ll compete through the first four months of 2015 for position among the top running backs selected in April 30-May 2.
But for right now, they’re teammates.
Ajayi and Gordon have trained for the NFL Scouting Combine together at EXOS in San Diego along with several other draft prospects. They’re scheduled to register at the combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday, do the bench press Feb. 20 and compete in the on-field testing Feb. 21.
“Me and him have become very close — that’s my boy,” Ajayi said Thursday. “I call him Money Mel. It’s great training with him. We’re paired together in our workouts. He’s such a great competitor. I’m a great competitor. We always push each other to improve. I’ve improved in some areas and I know he’s seen me do some things possibly better than him and he’s improved in those areas as well.”
Gordon led the nation in yards from scrimmage with 2,740 — the second-most in college football history — and was a Heisman Trophy finalist. Ajayi was second, and eighth all-time, with 2,358 yards.
“We both followed each other throughout the year,” Ajayi said. “When we first met, he told me he was always seeing how great that I did every week. This is Melvin Gordon, he’s a Heisman finalist. There was nothing really that I didn’t know about how his season went. Immediately, there was a mutual respect between us because we both know how great of running backs we are.”
Some of Ajayi’s other friends at the training facility include Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson, Michigan State linebacker Taiwan Jones and James Madison safety Dean Marlowe.
They work out six days a week, Monday-Saturday, with a combination of combine training, position drills and interview prep. Ajayi started five days after helping Boise State win the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31.
“You have to have a true, genuine love for the game, which I do,” he said. “When I come to train, it’s not like it’s a drag. It’s fun. It’s something I love to do. It’s something I want to do for a living. This is my dream to be able to play in the NFL.”
I’ll have a full story on Ajayi next week.
A quick roundup of the draft rankings out there:
— Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN doesn’t have Ajayi in the top 10 at running back, which is a stunner. He ranks Gordon No. 1 ahead of Georgia’s Todd Gurley.
— Mike Mayock of NFL Network doesn’t have Ajayi in his top five. He also has Gordon over Gurley.
— Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com ranks Ajayi as the No. 35 prospect and the No. 3 running back.
— CBSSports.com has Ajayi ranked in the top 50 prospects and Dane Brugler has touted him as the No. 3 running back.
— NFL.com gave Ajayi a 5.96 grade. At 6.0, he’d be considered an instant starter in the NFL. The scouting report compares him to Marshawn Lynch and includes this quote from an AFC scout: “Of all the backs in this draft, Ajayi might be my favorite because he can do everything you want from a back and you don't have to find a complementary back to pick up the slack for him in any one area.”
If you’re wondering about offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, as I tweeted Thursday the official announcement of his hiring at Notre Dame could be several days away. The Irish are known for a slow-moving process in finalizing hires. But he is leaving, according to multiple sources.
We'll have an in-depth report on Boise State's move to cost-of-attendance scholarships in Sunday's newspaper. The result will be about a $5,000 per year raise for athletes. Here's the accompanying video, which includes coaches and athletes reacting to the change.
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