Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sweating the Small Stuff; Senior Running Back, Neglected by the Big Boys, Worked Hard to Become the Best in JU History

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sweating the Small Stuff; Senior Running Back, Neglected by the Big Boys, Worked Hard to Become the Best in JU History

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF ELLIOTT

Three years is a long time to carry a grudge.

Rudell Small, entering his senior season at Jacksonville University, does not have a vindictiveness to any one person in particular, just to the several Division I-A college football coaches that told him he was too small to play, or that he wouldn't last an entire season with his size, or that they liked his ability, it's just they found somebody they liked more.

Small has rehashed the words in his mind many times the past three seasons in which he has become the Dolphins' all-time rushing leader and its most prolific scorer.

He weighed 185 pounds as a high school senior and now is at 208. He can run over defenders as well as he can side-step them. And, all Small wants to do now is bring the Dolphins another Pioneer Football League title and make some more recruiters eat their words.

"I talked to a number of Division I programs coming out of high school, but they were all saying the same thing," said Small who at 5 feet 10, has the same body makeup as the Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew, only he's three inches taller. "They were all saying they wanted me, but when it came down to signing day, they all backed away, said they found somebody they liked better or who was a little bigger. [Jacksonville University] Coach [Kerwin] Bell was the only one who believed in me and gave me a chance."

Bell was Small's high school coach at Ocala Trinity Catholic through his senior season. Bell then was offered and accepted the coaching position at JU. One of his first and easiest decisions was to extend an offer to Small to join him.

"Rudell has the same qualities of Emmitt Smith. Out of anybody I've ever been around, he's the closest thing that reminds me of Emmitt," said Bell, a former UF quarterback whose career overlapped Smith's in 1987, when Bell was a senior and Smith a freshman.

"Rudell has the ability to just wear people down. And then you have how physical he is as a specimen, as an athlete and the physicalness he brings to our team," Bell said. "We could probably give him the ball a little bit more here. He might lead the nation in rushing if we were that one-dimensional.

"But he understands that with the abilities all across our offense, he's just one part of it, though he's a big part, the main part of it."

Small holds every significant rushing record at JU, and will likely add to his list in his final season. But that's not his main concern.

"I've always felt that as long as you accomplished your team goals, the individual goals would come," he said. "Like this year, the only goal we have is to win the league championship outright. There are 20 seniors on the team and most of us have been here for four years. We know that last year we slipped up and lost a couple games we shouldn't have.

"Our slogan this year is 'Leave No Doubt.' In other words, finish the game off and leave no doubt who the best team is on the field each Saturday. …

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