INDIANAPOLIS – The first thing Memphis RB Tony Pollard wanted to make clear: He’s never going to be Anthony Miller, personality-wise.
“We’re two different people when it comes to our confidence,” Pollard said with a smile on Thursday at the NFL scouting combine.
But Pollard and his former Memphis teammate and friend, Miller, now a budding star with the Bears, remain close — and Miller continues to rub off on Pollard now as he paves his own path to the league.
“I just like his style,” Pollard said of Miller, whose college apartment was just above Pollard’s during the 2017 season. “Just him believing in himself and him coming from nothing and where he is now. He believed in himself when nobody else did, and now that he’s up there he still hasn’t changed the way he’s at.”
As Pollard’s role with the Tigers grew, Miller was making his way as a rookie with the Bears. The second-round pick – for whom Bears GM Ryan Pace gave up this year’s second-rounder to draft in 2018 – had some stops and starts in his first season in Chicago, but he finished fifth on the team in receptions (33) and receiving yards (423) and led the club in TD catches (seven).
What struck Pollard at Memphis was what the Bears roundly praised Miller for: his work ethic.
“Even with him, his last season in Memphis, being projected as one of the best players in in the country, if you came around practice you would have thought he was a walk-on,” Pollard said. “He practiced and just was the hardest-working player I have ever been around.”
Of course, Miller amazingly was a walk-on there. And though Pollard was offered a scholarship out of high school out of the Memphis area by the Tigers, it was one of his few FBS options. He tried to soak up some of Miller’s prove-it mentality while climbing the depth chart there and earning a role on offense and special teams.
Versatility and speed might be two of Pollard’s best calling cards. He was a running back in a traditional sense, and he measured in at 5-foot-10 5/8 and 210 pounds. But the Tigers also used him as a receiver out of the backfield and split him out wide as a way to get him and teammate Darrell Henderson on the field together. Pollard ran for 552 yards and six touchdowns this past season and also caught 39 passes for 458 yards and three TDs. He said his best-ever 40-yard dash was 4.37 seconds.
Pollard also was Memphis’ best returner by a mile, running back six career kickoffs for touchdowns, and he showcased good skills while performing on a number of the special-teams units.
“My whole career at Memphis, I’ve been doing special teams,” he said. “Kick return, kickoff, punt, gunner, punt return, block kicks, blocking the gunners on punts. Running back who lines up in the slot. All just helps being able to do a lot of things.”
Including a few things the Bears currently need. He has spoken to the team informally he said, and Henderson told media he did the same with the Bears as they seek to add more talent into the backfield and upgrade the return game. Pollard knows he could help fill both roles.
Asked how he’d fit in an offense such as the Bears’, with running backs motioning out and lined up in multiple spots, Pollard said: “That’s what I am looking for. It’s really cheating honestly. Running with a linebacker, knowing you have the advantage speed-wise and skill set-wise. It’s fun, but it’s really cheating honestly.”
Henderson is likely the most beloved prospect, having averaged a stunning 8.2 yards on his 432 college carries and 12.0 yards on his 63 receptions over the past three years. But if he is off the board when the Bears make their first selection at No. 87 overall, Pollard could be on their radar later in the draft. He’s projected as a Day 3 pick, but the arrow has been pointing upward following a standout performance in Memphis’ bowl game and Pollard’s good showing at the Senior Bowl.
He warns that he’s not the same personality as Miller, but Pollard wants to bring that same drive to whatever NFL team that drafts him. And if he’s somehow reunited with his former Memphis teammate in Chicago?
“It would be almost a dream come true,” Pollard said. “Him being from Memphis, playing again together … I know we would just click again instantly.”
In his four years in Memphis Pollard rushed for 941 yards with 9 touchdowns, he also had 1292 yards recieveing with another 9 touchdowns.
The Cowboys still have three picks in the 2019 NFL draft: 136 in the fourth round, 165 in the fifth round, and 241 in the seventh.
Keep it on 105.3 The Fan for wall-to-wall draft coverage live from The Star in Frisco, and check out the 105.3 The Fan Draft Board to see the best prospects left in the 2019 NFL Draft right HERE.
During his three seasons at Memphis, Pollard established himself as one of the nation’s most electric return men, bringing back seven kickoffs for touchdowns to tie the FBS career record. While Pollard projects to make his biggest impact on special teams at the next level, his departure will represent a significant loss on offense for a Memphis squad that already lost top running back Darrell Henderson to the draft. Pollard finished as the Tigers’ third-leading rusher with 552 yards and second-leading receiver with 39 grabs for 458 yards in 2018.
FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys have drafted running back Tony Pollard of Memphis as a potential backup for two-time NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott.
The Cowboys took Pollard with the 128th overall pick in the fourth round Saturday. Dallas considered the spot behind Elliott an offseason priority after not bringing back seldom-used Rod Smith.
Pollard also has potential as a return man after tying the FBS career record with seven kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Although owner and general manager Jerry Jones has said a multipurpose back wasn’t a requirement for Elliott’s backup, Pollard fits that bill as well. He had 552 yards rushing with six touchdowns and 458 yards receiving with three more scores as a junior at Memphis.
All three of Dallas’ picks skipped their senior seasons to enter the draft. Central Florida defensive tackle Trysten Hill was the club’s top pick at 58th overall in the second round. Offensive lineman Connor McGovern of Penn State went 90th overall in the third round.