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Terrance West a sleeper to watch at NFL Scouting Combine

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Former Towson RB Terrance West works with coach Kevin Heiberger inside the IMG Academy weight room

BRADENTON, Fla. — Terrance West says the NFL scouting combine is his opportunity to validate an improbable journey from Towson University walk-on to record-setting, draft-worthy power back.

"The combine is a chance to make some noise," West told USA TODAY Sports at IMG Academy, where he trained the past month. "I had a long journey to get here, but I never thought of giving up.

"I can definitely be a three-down NFL back. I want to become a name that rings a bell."

West led all 2013 college football players with a Football Championship Subdivision single-season record 2,509 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns. West intends to prove he is more than a feel-good story of a player who refused to quit on his dream, even when doors kept slamming in his face.

So those 20-, 60-yard shuttles and three-cone drills at the combine in Indianapolis shouldn't pose a problem, given the gantlet 5-11, 223-pound West already has navigated.

"I grew up in the so-called, 'hood, Baltimore City, where a lot of people can't survive," West said. "I learned from a lot of people's mistakes, saw a lot of talented guys get caught up in the streets."

After high school at Northwestern High in Baltimore, West took a prep year at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia for the 2009-10 school year. West thought he had a walk-on offer from Maryland for the following season, but it didn't pan out. He then tried Morgan State but missed the filing deadline.

So West sold shoes to support his son, Brendan, now 5, and began researching schools.

After two seasons without football, West joined Towson following a 1-10 campaign in 2010.

"I thought, 'They're just missing one piece — me.' So I went up there and coach Rob Ambrose said I could walk on," West said. "I killed it that spring."

Three 1,000-yard seasons later, he's hoping to live up to the NFL Draft Advisory's projection of him as a third-round selection.

"This kid is special and will not fail," said Chris Weinke, director of football at the IMG Academy. "(Washington Redskins 2012 sixth-round gem) Alfred Morris was an unassuming kid who trained here. He was so methodical in his approach and you saw what happened with his (1,613-yard) rookie season.

"Same thing with Terrance, one of those diamonds in the rough. You can't teach his heart and drive. He is explosive with one of the best sets of hands I've ever seen on a back. And he's overcome as much adversity as any kid.''

Former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been inspired by West.

"Terrance is the guy who really opened my eyes with his talent and work ethic," Bridgewater told USA TODAY Sports.

Bridgewater talked about the energy West brought as one of his receivers during 90-minute throwing sessions with Weinke.

"Once Terrance was done with his running back drills, he'd come spend an extra hour catching,'' Bridgewater said. "That's the kind of guy you want around."

West is a one-cut, downhill runner in the mold of Green Bay Packers rookie standout Eddie Lacy. Former NFL and current IMG Academy speed coach Loren Seagrave says West could clock a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, which could help him climb into the second round.

Other running backs to watch at the combine, which begins Wednesday and finishes Feb. 25:

— Oregon speed back De'Anthony Thomas. "De'Anthony can emerge in the combine's fastest-man category," said NFL Network analyst Charles Davis.

— Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, whom Seagrave said could also post a 4.4 40-time.

— Weinke expects Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan, Notre Dame left tackle Zack Martin and 6-5, 305 Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who shed 25 pounds in six weeks, to flash impressive athleticism for big men.

 

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