Kenny Hilliard: Opportunity is there for the young running back


Opportunity knocks only so often, and when it does, you better be ready to answer. Houston Texans running back Arian Foster knows this all too well as he found himself with an opportunity to impress the coaching staff in 2010 when his number was called.

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The Texans had traded up in the second round to get Auburn running back Ben Tate, presumably to be the cornerstone of their rushing game. In the first preseason game Tate broke his ankle and the second-year player Foster stepped in.

He came in to 2010 with only 257 yards on 54 carries as a rookie, but exploded for 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns. He made everyone in Houston forget that former 1,000 yard rusher Steve Slaton was the running back ahead of him originally.

Now we are only days into the 2015 training camp and Houston watched their top runner go down again as Arian Foster looks to be gone for up to half the season.

Sadly this is happening far too often for Foster, as he missed 11 games the past two seasons. Alfred Blue got the majority of the work last year, and had only 3.1 yards per rush. He held up well, but was injury prone in college and the low average did nothing to cement his status as the primary back behind #23.

So with one guy inured and the main back up performing below par as far as yards per rush are concerned, there is that sound Foster heard back in 2010, the knocking. The opportunity is there for a young, unknown back who is willing to bust his backside to make a name for himself.

In the seventh round of this past draft the Texans drafted Blue’s former LSU teammate, running back Kenny Hilliard. the 6′, 226 pound running back was never a lead dog in college, but he runs hard and is not easy to bring down.

I felt the pick was solid that late, and spoke with Josh Criswell of Death Valley Voice about Hilliard’s pro prospects going forward. He also believed there was a role for Hilliard after watching him his whole career at LSU.

The good news for Hilliard is he has already gotten noticed in the early going for his hard style of play, as noted by John Harris of the Houston Texans website, who listed his observations from Day 3 of training camp.

"After he was drafted, I likened Kenny Hilliard to a hammer and that’s what he is. There’s nothing pretty about Hilliard when he runs the rock. Get out of his way or expect a collision. During the goal line drill at the end of the night, Hilliard was determined to get the rock in the end zone. He took the handoff from Mallett and nearly ran over his own fullback and his offensive line to get the rock across into the end zone."

Hilliard obviously has a long road ahead of him if he were to have any glimmer of hope to be the starter for the Texans. The one thing that is for sure however, is that he now has the opportunity to not only make this team, but to get himself on the field earlier than anyone thought. If he can accomplish that much, anything can happen. Just ask the undrafted kid from Tennessee Arian Foster.

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