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Austin Ekeler's NFL Rise Built on Work Ethic


What a difference a year makes.

Running back Austin Ekeler is reminded of this frequently by his position coach, Alfredo Roberts. At this time in 2017 training camp, Ekeler was buried on the depth chart -- sixth to be exact -- with few shots to make a favorable impression.

"I'd get four or five reps a practice," he said. "That's the whole practice."

Despite frustrations, Ekeler continued his film study while those limited camp opportunities turned into preseason playing time. When called upon, he performed on offense and special teams, eventually making the final roster. He finished the 2017 regular season with 539 total yards and five touchdowns – a far cry from the little-known longshot out of Western State.

There wasn't a magic formula to Ekeler's sudden rise, just hard work. Entering his second NFL season, the first-year jitters are gone, too. He now knows what to expect.

"Coming in, especially where I was coming in, it kind of seems surreal just being in the moment," Ekeler said. "You're trying to live up to it, and you have all these legends around you. These Pro Bowlers – (Philip Rivers), he's been playing so long you're just like, 'Oh my goodness.' And you get here, it just takes time to settle down as a rookie."

On Monday, the team's first padded practice, Ekeler looked explosive hitting the hole. He took a run to the house for a would-be touchdown. When he did get wrapped up -- signaling the end of a play -- he made a point to finish out every run.

Ekeler's practice habits are purposeful. The bar has been set high by teammates like Rivers and Keenan Allen, so he has no choice but to follow.

"These guys want to win and if you don't want to come in and you're not going to work hard – you want to do your own thing – it's not going to fly," Ekeler said. "I promise you, it's not going to fly with the guys that we got leading this team."

At just 23 years old, Ekeler is paying it forward with advice to some of the youngest Chargers hoping to do what he did almost 12 months ago – make the final roster.

"It's your job to prove them wrong – that you should actually be getting more reps," he said. "So, it's your job to be ready when your opportunity comes."

What a difference a year makes.

Chargers Training Camp has kicked off! Click here for information on attending one of the several open practices between July 28 and August 23. To celebrate football being back, we're giving away two 2018 season tickets! Click here to enter for your chance to win.

Take a look through the top practice photos from Day 4 of Chargers Camp.

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