Philadelphia Eagles’ Donnel Pumphrey shrugs off questions about size: ‘I just take the field’
PHILADELPHIA — Donnel Pumphrey heard it all through his record-breaking career at San Diego State, addressed it in interview after interview during the pre-draft process and faced the topic again Friday in the Eagles’ locker room.
The 5-foot-8, 176-pound rookie running back knows he’s small for his position. He understands his slight frame lends itself to concern over his durability and toughness as a ball-carrier.
But Pumphrey said Friday after the first session of Eagles rookie minicamp he doesn’t spend much time thinking about how to respond to doubters.
“I, honestly, just show them,” Pumphrey said. “I don’t answer questions. I just take the field and do what I can.”
That’s the approach the mild-mannered Pumphrey, a fourth-round pick, has adopted at the beginning of his professional career. He racked up an FBS record 6,405 rushing yards at San Diego State, and while he wants to carve out a niche in the NFL, he doesn’t plan to stray far from the traits that propelled him to success as an Aztec.
Most analysts figure Pumphrey will fill a hybrid role in the Eagles’ offense, serving as a change-of-pace back and occasional slot receiver.
But Pumphrey thinks he can develop into a primary ball-carrier if provided the opportunity, and he pointed to three-time Pro Bowl running back Warrick Dunn as an example of his potential. At 5 feet, 9 inches and 180 pounds, Dunn played in the league from 1997 to 2007 and finished his career with more than 10,000 rushing yards.
Philadelphia Eagles RB Donnel Pumphrey discusses size, ball security and more
Pumphrey also mentioned that one of his shortest new teammates, 5-foot-6 running back Darren Sproles, is entering his 13th year in the NFL.
Despite his faith in his abilities as a running back, Pumphrey is open to filling different responsibilities to make an impact for the Eagles. He said he ran some routes as a slot receiver at minicamp Friday, and he added he’d be open to playing special teams, though he didn’t in college.
“Whatever is going to help me play on Sundays,” Pumphrey said. “I’m looking forward to doing it.”
Coach Doug Pederson, who calls offensive plays for the Eagles, suggested Friday he plans to move Pumphrey around in different formations, rather than leave him stuck in the backfield.
“I do want to expand, I think, and see some of the things that he can do as a receiver — as a guy that we can move in and out of the backfield,” Pederson said. “We know what he can do in the backfield, much like Darren Sproles in a way, that we can utilize him as a receiver at times. So we’re just going to see where it goes with him.”
Pumphrey’s open to all that; he just doesn’t want coaches to forget about his talents as a traditional ball-carrier. He said his shiftiness compensates for his smaller stature, and he enjoyed running through the tackles at San Diego State.
He found ways to protect his body while totaling 1,059 carries in college, too.
“My offensive line has always done a great job getting me to the next level, and like I said before, it’s usually going to be a one-on-one situation,” Pumphrey said. “And I just like to play smart and know when to get out of bounds, know when to get down and know when to make guys miss.”
Pumphrey said he weighed in at 176 pounds at the NovaCare Complex Thursday and wants to build enough muscle to play between 180 and 185 pounds this season. He’s working with the team’s nutritionists to sculpt the body coaches want.
Regardless of his weight, though, Pumphrey thinks he can thrive as a pure running back in the NFL. He wants to make appropriate changes to play in the league, but he doesn’t believe any wholesale transformations are necessary.
“I do plan on getting bigger,” he said, “but this is what got me to the next level.”