Every once in a while, a player comes along in the National Football League that, for whatever reason, was overlooked until somebody gave them a chance.
Whether they didn't have the hype or the stats in high school that earned them a scholarship at a big-time college, they played in a system not completely tailored to their talents or they were simply a late bloomer, these special players are a general manager's dream when they end up panning out.
Go behind the scenes as Redskins running back Alfred Morris goes in front of the camera for his 2014 photo shoot.
Alfred Morris has been that special player of the NFL's 2012 draft class.
Morris, the Redskins' sixth-round (173rd-overall) pick that year, didn't necessarily turn a lot of heads at Florida Atlantic or at the combine, but it didn't take long for heads to turn when he first arrived at Redskins Park for rookie minicamp.
From that point until Week 1 of the regular season, Morris – a Pensacola, Fla. native – worked his way up from the bottom of the depth chart to the very top, earning the start in his very first NFL game.
Against the New Orleans Saints that day – in the Superdome, no less – Morris ran the ball 28 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns, helping lead the Redskins to a 40-32, upset victory.
He's been a model of consistency ever since, and in the Redskins' Week 2 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars Sept. 14 at FedExField, he eclipsed the 3,000-yard career rushing mark in his 34th-career game, the fastest in team history.
Even John Riggins, the Redskins' all-time leading rusher, needed 38 games to get to the 3,000-yard mark.
First-year Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said Morris – who earned his first Pro Bowl selection last season – is the ideal back to have in any situation.
"You know, if things don't go right in the passing game, if you're worried about a pass rusher here or there, it's nice to turn and hand it off a guy you know is going to get some chunks of yards for you and run through tackles and make positive plays – and not complain if he doesn't get the ball and all that good stuff," Gruden said. "He's a class act. He's a good, hard runner, great zone runner. He has great vision."
Entering Thursday night's game against the New York Giants, Morris had ran the ball 670 times for 3,141 yards and 22 touchdowns. He's had 21 rushes of 20-plus yards, and last season, turned in a career-long 45-yard touchdown run.
Morris doesn't earn his yardage by breaking runs to the outside or relying on some nifty moves to juke defenders out of their cleats. No, instead, his 4.7 yards-per-carry average in two-plus seasons has been earned the hard way.
"It is a very physical game," Morris said. "I love contact. I mean, I'm a weird running back. I love it and I look forward to it."
With each passing game, Morris slowly, but steadily, creeps up the list of all-time Redskins running backs. With 77 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 21, he entered the Top 10 in career rushing yardage in Redskins history, surpassing Don Bosseler (3,112 yards).
But Morris knows he wouldn't be where he's at without working on his all-around game. Because he is a glutton for punishment, Morris also takes pride in his pass protection skills – which, oftentimes, can be the deciding point between a super-talented runner and someone good at running that's also able to protect the quarterback.
"You might have a big-name running back in college that doesn't make it in the pros… because he can't pass pro and he can't read the blitzes," Morris said. "And if you can't protect the quarterback, which is the franchise, then you won't be on the field."
Morris said transitioning to the professional game and all of its full-field blitz pickups was tough at first, but he got used to it eventually.
"There's so much going on in your head, once you get comfortable it kind of slows down, but at first everything is just bouncing around," he said. "You may look to one side too much, and then you've got a cornerback blitzing off the edge that sacks your quarterback – and then you're on the bench."
Because of that all-around approach, Gruden has referred to Morris as the team's "Steady Eddie."
"He just comes to work every day," Gruden said. "He makes his reads, he makes his cuts, does what he's supposed to do. He's just an impressive kid … Just everything about him is impressive to me – the way he prepares, the way he works, the way he practices."