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An Emotional Return to Houston for an "Under the Radar" Charger
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Melvin Gordon is a household name across the country as he is in the running to lead the NFL in touchdowns and rushing yards this season.
Ronnie Hillman is local legend returning to San Diego as the Chargers claimed him on Tuesday, bringing the former Aztec star back to America’s Finest City.
Then there is Kenneth Farrow.
While the other two running backs are garnering headlines, the 5-9, 219-pound rookie is focused on what will be an emotional weekend as he returns to city where he made his bones. The 23-year old rusher defied the odds to make the Bolts as an undrafted free agent out of Houston over the summer.
“It is exciting, just having the opportunity to go back where a lot people saw my college career,” he said. “I have already had quite a few people tell me they are going to be at the game. It is going to be fun, especially playing there at the pro level now. I played in NRG my sophomore season when they were building our new stadium. It is definitely going to be fun, I am looking forward to it and hopefully I can get out there and make a few impact plays.”
Farrow was a two-time second-team American Athletic Conference pick and a three-year team-captain for the Cougars. He finished his career at Houston with 560 carries for 2,975 yards (fourth most in school history) and 34 TDs (second most), as well as 74 receptions for 546 yards and three touchdowns.
While few gave Farrow a chance to make the Chargers’ 53-man roster, he has ended up playing a key role following season ending injuries to Branden Oliver and then Danny Woodhead. He’s filled in admirably when called upon to give Gordon a breather, carrying the rock 15 times for 58 yards (3.9 yards per carry) along with one catch for four yards.
Farrow has flown under the radar this season as the other running backs receive the accolades. That’s been the case almost his entire football career, which is just fine for the rookie who feels he thrives out of the spotlight.
“It’s the role I have been in my whole career playing football,” he explained. “Being at Houston, we were kind of an under the radar team. I was kind of under the radar coming out of the draft and being an undrafted free agent, under the radar again. It kind of allows you to make steady progress without crazy criticism or crazy praise. Whether that comes or it doesn’t come I am going to say level headed.”
A key to success has been the tutelage of the Chargers’ bell-cow back.
“Melvin has been going off every week. I think that has helped me because when I get in there, there isn’t a huge amount of pressure. It has been fun to watch him grow. (I have been) talking to him a lot, his season last year he struggled and he told me, ‘You just have to go out there and play.’ Seeing what he has done from last year to this year is pretty fun to watch because he has gotten a lot better.”
Farrow wasn’t surprised he went undrafted as he explained he’s always flown under the radar. Still, he had a lot of attention as a priority undrafted free agent and numerous teams courted him. In the end, his decision was whittled down to four but the Bolts were his clear cut choice due to their success with undrafted players.
“I just felt like it was the best fit,” he said. “Guys like Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver, two undrafted guys being there was the biggest thing. Danny Woodhead has obviously been playing for a long time, but seeing Branden Oliver come in here and have the season he had as an undrafted free agent. It was just the theme here of a lot of undrafted guys get a chance was what I noticed.”
The Bolts have brought in other backs throughout the year, yet Farrow has been the guy they count on to give Gordon a blow. That belief in him is what has allowed him to succeed when called upon.
“It’s big for my confidence for them to trust me,” he said. “Learning the playbook; that was my biggest thing coming in. I just wanted to make sure I knew the playbook so I’d be in a good situation if needed. The injuries put me in a situation where I am the number two back, so that (preparation) has really has paid off for me. But know I am past the getting to know the playbook (phase) and now I want to make a bigger impact week in and week out. That will come with experience and more reps.”
Farrow also credits Running Backs Coach Ollie Wilson for being an invaluable resource in what has been an invaluable rookie learning experience.
“He is a huge help. I mean, he’s got 26 years coaching (experience). He reminds me of my coach at college who coached for a super long time. Every day, every play you are getting coached. There is no let-off for any reason. Every day, every detail (he coaches) and for me if you want to get better, you want to be one of the best to play the game, that is what you need every day. I’ll think I had a good play in practice, and he will come up to me and say, ‘You could have done this, you could have done that.’ I love it! I like to be coached hard because that is the only way to get better.”