Everyone loves an underdog. You’ve got basically every Rocky movie, Remember The Titans, Team Pup N Suds versus Team X-Bladz, Gohan versus Cell, every other kid in the lobby versus me in Call of Duty, Pete Davidson and Ariana Gran — wait, my bad.
The reason why we love underdog stories is the same reason we gamble; the chance. It’s the “what if.” The chance to be able to see it. It’s the “could you imagine if this actually happened?” The “could you imagine if the Giants actually upset the undefeated Patriots?” The “could you imagine if the Cavs came back from down 3-1?” The “could you imagine if a 5-foot-7, 184-pound rookie running back made it in the league, earned a starting spot, and tore it up on Thursday Night Football?”
Phillip Lindsay can.
The undrafted Lindsay from the University of Colorado currently has 436 rushing yards for the Denver Broncos this season. Anyone want to take a guess at how many rookie running backs are ahead of him? It’s one guy: Saquon Barkley, and Barkley has just two more yards than Lindsay.
One of these players went No. 2 overall.
The other went undrafted.
So what gives? How did everyone miss on Lindsay like this? What undetectable, unmeasurable trait of Lindsay’s made him the latest underdog story in the NFL?
To quote Mark Twain: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
Phillip Lindsay came into his pro day at 5-foot-7, 184 pounds (since he didn’t get invited to the Combine). Those numbers are in the 3rd and 2nd percentile of running backs currently in the NFL. If you don’t know what that means, it means there are like two total running backs who are his size who are even in the league, let alone possibly contributing.
But what Lindsay lacks in size he makes up for in heart — cue the cheese movie music. But seriously. Lindsay should in no way be having the success that he’s had this year, and the success he had on Thursday night, up the middle and between the tackles. And yet every time Lindsay touches the ball, he makes it so you have to give it your all to bring him down or keep up with him.
The Broncos have been blocking well for Lindsay, but just because a player gets open space doesn’t mean you can’t still appreciate what they do with it. Lindsay, who ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at his pro day, is able to process things at a very high speed. Some guys are fast, but they don’t know what to do with it or how to get into areas where they can even use it. Lindsay knows how to do both. He truly makes the most of his skills both mentally and physically.
We talk all the time about defensive ends and other pass rushers being able to convert speed into power. Lindsay does that but at the running back position. Due to his acceleration, his balance and his vision, Lindsay can run through contact of player much bigger than he is. There is a sense of determination in his running style that out-weights what his stature suggests.
At Colorado, Lindsay’s all-out, pedal-to-the-metal style was seen as erratic, chaotic, something that might be too undisciplined for the NFL. When you combine that with his lack of size, that’s likely why NFL teams stayed away.
They took a potential positive of a player who gave everything he had on every play and let their worries turn it into a unsalvageable negative.
He was an underdog then, but right now he’s a reminder that sometimes it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.
And the dog in Lindsay has the size for the NFL.