Elijah Hood sighting, everyone.
The former Charlotte Catholic and North Carolina running back didn’t make his NFL debut last night – that came last week when his Los Angeles Raiders faced off against the Los Angeles Rams – but he certainly had his best showing so far as a professional.
Hood carried the ball three times for 20 yards in the Raiders’ third preseason contest, including a new career-long, 12-yard carry. That may not sound like much, but for someone who dealt with nagging injuries the past few seasons (he suffered a leg injury and a concussion his junior season alone), it was a welcome sight.
Hood had reportedly missed the Raiders’ exhibition opener because of an injury as well.
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Hood was one of the nation’s top running back recruits coming out of Charlotte Catholic, including a 2013 season where he was named AP Player of the Year in North Carolina. He originally committed to Notre Dame, but after some soul-searching, flipped his commitment to UNC, partly so he could be closer to family in Charlotte.
Hood’s three seasons with the Tar Heels were marked by injuries, but his talent stood out the most his sophomore year. ‘
That season, he ran for 1,463 and 17 touchdowns for a UNC team that made the ACC championship game against Clemson. His battering running style (he’s 6 feet tall and played at 220 in Chapel Hill) wore down opponents as games went on, and his size made it tough for defenders to bring him down.
But unfortunately for Hood, he couldn’t replicate that production as a junior. He still had 858 yards on the ground, but missed substantial time with a variety of afflictions. Then, instead of sticking around a depleted UNC team, he opted to test his luck professionally, forgoing his fourth year of eligibility in favor of the NFL draft.
There the Raiders rewarded Hood for his efforts, picking him in the seventh round. He even wrote a blog for the team before his first NFL training camp.
But will he make the roster? He was drafted as a potential backup running back behind starter Marshawn Lynch, whose similarly violent running style has earned him the nickname “Beast Mode.”
For all the effort the Raiders went to to acquire Lynch – they traded for him from the Seahawks this offseason and convinced him to come out of retirement – Hood likely won’t see the field much.
He could also end up on the practice squad, which is where the San Francisco Chronicle’s Vic Tafur expected him to be before last night’s performance.
Still, Hood is a capable runner between the tackles, and the way he drags defenders along mimics Lynch.
Perhaps in a few years Hood will supplant his mentor, but for now, he’s got to be happy just to be healthy and back playing football.