Picking up a blitz is tough work even for a big running back. Let’s say the blitzer is a linebacker. Here he comes, sprinting into your backfield. Your role as running back is to discourage him from getting to the quarterback.
Jordan Todman, a free agent the Carolina Panthers signed in March, is not a big running back. He’s listed at 5-10 and 200 pounds, and does not appear to be either. One reason those 5-9 backs who were so elusive in college fail to make an NFL roster is because they are overwhelmed when they attempt to block.
Regardless of how big Todman is or isn’t, watch him on the blitz. He doesn’t get in the way of the linebacker. He goes after him.
You, Jordan Todman, do that well.
“Thank you,” Todman, 25, says Wednesday after practice. “I got the, say, little man’s disease. I’m not the biggest guy on the field, but I’m definitely not afraid to stick my head in there give a linebacker everything I got and block my butt off. And I definitely take pride in it. And I feel like … being a speedy back or a scat back people always question your blitz pickup abilities. So I don’t want them to question it. I want to go out on the field and showcase it.”
Carolina’s linebackers weigh as much as 250 pounds, and they, too, work hard. So to stop them you have to offer more than effort.
Todman says that there are only so many blitzers a team can send. So he tries to anticipate.
“Honestly it’s a high-speed crash,” says Todman. “You can’t be scared. And I try to get to him before he can get to me and minimize (the) speed he can pick up. And I’m blessed to be really short. And I get underneath him and anchor in and have good leverage and hang on until the quarterback releases the ball.”
How do you get a job in the NFL and how do you hang onto it? You block. You tackle. You hustle. You return kicks. You tackle kick returners. You run with the ball.
Todman ran for 1,574 yards his final season, his junior year, at Connecticut. He was the Big East Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year.
San Diego took him in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. He played on the practice squads of San Diego and Minnesota as a rookie, and played the next three seasons with Jacksonville.
In those three seasons he rushed 111 times and picked up 450 yards and three touchdowns. Last season he averaged 5.8 yards on 32 carries. He returned kickoffs 25.6 yards, sixth in the NFL for players with 20 or more returns. He had seven special teams tackles.
“He’s a tenacious cat,” says Carolina fullback Mike Tolbert. “We call him Sir Purr just because he’s always on the move. You watch the game and Sir Purr is always running around, moving, dancing, doing whatever he can.
“(Todman is) just a fighter, man. He’s a little guy and he’s getting into the linebacker’s grill. He’s chipping d-linemen. He’s running routes. He does it all.”
The nickname is Todman’s first other than Tod. After Tolbert gave him a Sir Purr primer, Todman decided he liked the name.
“I’m like, let’s keep it going,” he says.
Every camp you’re going to find a player you like. Maybe you see him make a catch, make a defender miss or make a tackle. Or maybe a blitzing linebacker goes sprinting into the backfield and one of the smallest players on the field stuffs him or at least slows him down.
You said you have the little man’s disease. How frequently did you hear that you’re too small to play football?
“I’d probably say that (I heard) those thoughts, those opinions, in high school and college,” says Todman.
How did you react?
“I would honestly smile and wait for the snap of the ball,” Sir Purr says.