Alfred Morris slid under the radar throughout his college career and into the 2012 NFL Draft, where the Redskins took him in the sixth round with the 173rd overall pick.
That level of ambiguity did little to deter Morris from earning the starting running back spot his rookie year, however, as the Pensacola, Fla., native went on to break several team rushing records in 2012 – and then follow that up with a Pro Bowl selection in 2013.
In the process, Morris has earned the attention of numerous players and coaches league wide, including Jay Gruden, who in January was named the 29th head coach in Redskins franchise history.
Gruden – the offensive coordinator the past three seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals – has spent the past two-plus months watching film and evaluating his new roster, and as he tries to fill in other areas of the depth chart, he already has a level of comfort at the running back position – particularly with Morris leading the way.
"(Morris has) done some outstanding things for a second-year running back," Gruden said recently in an exclusive interview with Redskins.com TV's Larry Michael at the 2014 NFL Combine. "We have great, high hopes for him moving forward."
Gruden spent the past three seasons overseeing the development of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, a second-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft whose 80 passing touchdowns rank third-most for a quarterback in his first three seasons in NFL history.
With the Redskins, Gruden has two young, talented quarterbacks – Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins – to lead his offense, but knows utilizing Morris' abilities will be key to keeping defenses on their toes.
In 2013, Morris collected 1,275 yards rushing on 276 attempts – good enough for 4.6 yards per run – and 13 touchdowns en route to his first-ever Pro Bowl selection.
"You can tell that Alfred's got great vision," Gruden said. "He's a great zone scheme runner. He's got good power, low center of gravity, he runs through the first arm tackles usually, and does a great job securing the ball."
Gruden said Morris can take his game to the next level, however, by making improvements in a couple areas this offseason.
"There are some things that Alfred can work on," he said. "You know, pass blocking, pass catching. There are some things he's not totally refined yet."
Morris said making those improvements the next few months – as well as keeping up with his cardio training – will be key for future success.
""A lot of people don't realize how much energy it takes to run over somebody or drag somebody for an extra three, four, five yards," he said last season. "I really try to make sure that I'm in better shape than any and everybody else because I'm not the biggest, fastest or strongest guy but at time same time, I can outlast you."