At Kentucky football pro day, Chris Rodriguez proves ‘I’m not slow’ before NFL Draft

·3 min read

Will Levis showing off his elite arm strength was expected at Kentucky football’s pro day Friday. Chris Rodriguez flashing sneaky speed was not.

The Wildcats’ former star running back was known for a bone-crushing rushing style over the course of a career that saw him finish third on the program’s career rushing yards list. There was the occasional long run, but speed was always considered Rodriguez’s weakness.

By running an unofficial 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Rodriguez will not be confused with the fastest players in the draft, but it becomes easier to see him translating his 6.2 yards per carry average in college to the pros.

“Everybody knows I can run the ball, but people were kind of skeptical of how fast I was,” Rodriguez said. “It was hard at Kentucky showing off my speed when you’ve got people like Barion (Brown) and Dane (Key) and Wan’Dale (Robinson) that can really take the top off.

“… Showing I’m not slow but not super fast feels pretty good.”

Rodriguez did not run the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. Had he recorded a 4.52-second time there, he would have ranked eighth among all running backs. That time would have been faster than two running backs — UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet (4.53) and Auburn’s Tank Bigsby (4.56) — ranked among the top 100 prospects in the draft class by The Athletic.

Former Kentucky star Benny Snell, the player Rodriguez has repeatedly been compared during his college career, ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash at his NFL combine.

Levis said he was talking with a scout during the 40-yard dash portion of pro day who asked what he expected from Rodriguez, suggesting a time around 4.65 seconds sounded right to him.

“I was like, ‘No, just watch,’” Levis said. “You could tell he put in the work and he was able to get that great number for him. You watch the tape, and there’s no one more fearless on the field than him at any time. Any NFL team that’s going to take him is going to be very happy that they did.”

At the combine, Rodriguez recorded the fourth-best bench press (19) of any running back. He let that number stand on its own merit, declining to participate in the bench press Friday, but he worked out for scouts in attendance in each of the other drills.

He capitalized on the added attention directed at Levis, projected as a possible top-10 pick in the draft, by catching passes during Levis’ throwing session.

Rodriguez acknowledged his ability to stick in the NFL will likely depend on how many areas he can contribute other than carrying the ball. For instance, Snell has stuck with the Pittsburgh Steelers thanks in large part to his contributions on special teams.

One 40-yard dash time might not be enough to dramatically alter Rodriguez’s draft stock, but his former teammates and coaches are even more confident in his ability to play in the NFL after Friday’s performance.

“You know who we compete against,” Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said. “If you can be productive in the SEC year after year and put it on film, I think it translates. He ran a really good time today. He’s going to do well in drills. He’s already done well through this process.

“Chris is going to do really big things, and I think he’ll be a steady player in the NFL for a long time.”

Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez participates in drills during the team’s pro day at Nutter Field House on Friday.
Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez participates in drills during the team’s pro day at Nutter Field House on Friday.

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