by Chris Warner
Let’s say, hypothetically, you were in the market for a third-down running back, and you came across a 5-8, 205-pounder who rushed for 1,375 yards at 6.1 yards per carry. He also scored 19 TDs and caught 24 passes for 10.8 yards on average. Not bad, right?
Hello, Tyrell Fenroy. Louisiana-Lafayette’s offensive Player of the Year gained 1,000 yards per season to beat out former North Texas (and Patriots preseason) powerhouse Patrick Cobbs as Sun Belt Conference career rushing leader with over 4,600 yards.
Tyrell spoke with PD this past week about school, the NFL, and his knack for holding onto the ball.
As an every-down back in college who projects as a third-down back in the NFL, what type of transition do you think that will be?
I think it would be a little bit of a different transition, knowing that in college it was mainly every down, (now I’ll be) going to the NFL and not being used as much, but still being used. I guess it’s as important being in on third down (as it is) in the game – every down is important, but it’s more important on third down. So I’m going to get the first down.
Do you think you see yourself in that role, and maybe on special teams, too?
Yes. Actually, when the scouts came to pro day, in just talking to them, (they told) me I’d have a chance to play special teams. I didn’t get that chance to play them – being a starter at running back – but I wouldn’t have a problem with playing special teams. You know, I practiced it every day…but I never got a chance to actually play it in a game.
Where you a returner when you practiced? Did you do that in high school?
Yeah, I did kickoff return and I did punt return in high school, and that’s why I was practicing that in college.
Tell me about playing for the Ragin’ Cajuns. What was that like?
Oh, it was awesome. I mean, it was exciting, the games and the fans down here. They’ve been very supportive of our team…The practice is hard work, just being dedicated to the team. You know, you got good coaches, and my position coach…was always on you. Not just on the football side of it, but just being in the classroom. I mean, they were very supportive about everything you did. It was awesome being here for four years.
Doing as well as you did in high school, you must have gotten a lot of offers from other colleges. What made you decide on Louisiana-Lafayette?
Well, I had a couple of offers, like Central Michigan, Arkansas State. One of the biggest offers I had was from Ole Miss before they had the coaching change. That’s where I was really leaning toward, but after a new coaching staff came in, you know, they went in kind of a different direction.
And I’m like an hour and forty-five minutes away from my house, from my hometown. So I wanted to get away, kind of far, but it’s not that far. I kind of wanted to stay close, but not that close…
When you say that they were making some changes at Ole Miss, what kind of changes were they?
That’s when the head coach (David) Cutcliffe was over there, and (2004)’s the year that he got fired and they brought a new head coach (Ed Orgeron) in, a whole new coaching staff.
And they were changing up the offense?
Yeah, they changed the offense, and they started recruiting all different kinds of people. They had some other running back chosen that they brought on board and I wasn’t included in that.
So, how does a relatively small school like Louisiana-Lafayette get you ready for the pros?
I mean, it’s a small school, but we play a lot of SEC teams and big, top schools. We played the Big 12 schools, like Texas A&M. We played LSU; we played Tennessee. So we play in our conference, we play those small-type schools, but we also get the experience of playing those big, top players from the SEC and Big 12. It’s not that we’re really recognized as being a big, top school, (but) we play those schools so we get the experience of the guys going to the NFL mostly coming out of (there).
Speaking of big-time, you had 19 touchdowns this past year. Does that ever get boring, scoring a touchdowns?
(Laughs) No, not at all, man. I love scoring touchdowns. I don’t say they’re easy. I get very excited. I mean, I don’t get excited to where I’m jumping up and down or whatever, but you just get used to being there a lot. You get (used to it).
You also had 24 catches, and I’m wondering what kind of passes they were. Were there a lot of screen passes, or was it more over-the-middle stuff?
It was more like flats and flairs. Some of them was, like, over the middle, but a lot of stuff that we did, it was mostly coming from out of the backfield, like swing passes and stuff like that.
So most of the yardage, you’d say, was after the catch?
I was also reading that you don’t fumble often. Did you fumble this past season?
I fumbled once. It was the second game of the season, a home game, I fumbled once. And I fumbled once my freshman year. It was our first home game. Our position coach is mainly (about) that in practice. I mean, you don’t fumble. If you even think about fumbling, you won’t even see the game field. That’s the same way I was coming out of high school, being protective of the ball, because that’s the thing that is going to get you (ahead), is not being the back that lays the ball on the ground.
At what point in your playing career, whether in high school or in college, did you realize that you had a shot at the NFL?
I probably would say around my senior year (in high school), because around that time, that determines whether you’re going to go on to college. I guess when you’re in college, coming out of high school, that determines if you really want to play football, play sports for four more years…Coming out of high school, I wasn’t going to do it just to do it for four years and just be done with it. I wanted to do it and go as far as I can, and I felt like, coming out of high school, I was going to (have) the dedication to also get my degree and to play football as long as, I guess, I would want to.
Were you surprised when you weren’t invited to the combine?
A little bit, but it’s the same thing as coming out of high school, not being recognized and not being able to get the opportunity, always having to go down that long, hard road. Not being able to get things handed to me and really having to earn things…So it was kind of a surprise, but it’s meant that I’ve set back and thought about it twice: I thought about it that one time (when it happened), and just last week. That made me work harder for our pro day.
How do you think you did on your pro day?
I think I could have (done) better. As far as everything I do, I think I can always do better than I did. But just from talking to the other scouts and looking at the film (of) me, I think I did pretty good overall.
And what teams have you spoken with, Tyrell?
I talked to the New Orleans Saints…Next Thursday there’s a “local day,” I’ll go down there and do a workout. And I talked to the Chicago Bears.
Do you get the sense that there’s anything in particular that you need to work on?
Right now, you know, at our college, it wasn’t really a passing team (as far as) passing to the running back, so my main thing right now is being able to improve my catching ability every day.
Here’s the last question: if you had to gain five yards, would you want to run with it, or would you want to catch a short pass?
Being a running back, I feel like I would probably want to run with it.
Awesome. Tyrell, thank you very much for your time today.
All right. No problem.