I remember telling Kenny Masenda six years ago that the scariest man in the NFL played tailback, wore #43 and was no taller than 5’5″. His name was Darren Sproles.
On Monday night, the Philadelphia Eagles pulled victory out their backsides in a come-from-behind 30-27 win over the Indianapolis Colts, largely because Sproles decided to put Chip Kelly’s squad on his back. That’s what happens when one player touches the ball just 11 times on offense and accumulates 178 yards plus a touchdown in the process — not to mention the yards he accumulated on punt returns.
No. 43’s performance helped inspire one of the greatest tweets in the history of TSFJ’s LA-resident Phillip Barnett’s entire existence:
Correct. RT @imsohideouss: Giving the ball to Darren Sproles is akin to using Oddjob in Golden Eye 64.
— TheSportsFanJournal (@theSFjournal) September 16, 2014
Yes, the reference to the greatest video game in Nintendo 64 history made Monday night’s performance something to remember, but all I could do is remember the first time Darren Sproles made me terrified as a football fan.
On Thursday night, the No. 20 Kansas State Wildcats will host the defending SEC champion and national champion runner-up No. 5 Auburn Tigers in Manhattan, Kansas. There will be many a college football fan who will look at this game and assume that Auburn will mop the floor with Kansas State, and to that I laugh in their collective faces and say to them that they don’t know shit about football. K-State’s head coach Bill Snyder lives for games like this, where he can go in and tell his players that the world doesn’t believe in them and that they have no chance to win. Snyder’s been shocking the world for decades.
I should know.
Back in 2003, the undefeated and then No. 1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners were preparing another run at a national championship, and the only thing Bob Stoops and Co. had to do was take care of business in their conference championship game against a middling, three-loss Kansas State squad. Now, my Uncle Bill was worried about this runt of a running back that K-State had, and Grandpop (RIP) would always irrationally root for black quarterbacks because he thought the man wasn’t letting black quarterbacks flourish. (Grandpop be knowing.)
I knew exactly who the senior patriarchs in my family were talking about; their names were Darren Sproles and Ell Roberson. On December 6, 2003, in Arrowhead Stadium, my world would forever be rocked by the performances of No. 43 and No. 3, as the team I perceived to be indestructible would be roasted, toasted and burnt to a crisp. (“Salute Your Shorts” fans what up.)
Sigh … let’s reflect, shall we? We shall.
ONE: It should be noted that this 2003 Oklahoma Sooners squad had the Heisman Trophy winner that season in quarterback Jason White and put a defense on the field that would eventually send 11 players to the NFL in the next two seasons. OU wasn’t a flukey squad.
TWO: Darren Sproles touched the ball 25 times in the 2003 Big 12 Championship. With those touches, No. 43 amassed 323 yards from scrimmage (235 rushing, 88 receiving) and made every moment in which he touched the ball a terrifying moment in my life from then forth.
TWO-A: Darren Sproles does this thing where after he breaks through the defense for another wind sprint, he almost always veers toward the sidelines. He’ll allow the defenders to get real close to tackling him, and then he’ll tip-toe right out of bounds. It’s infuriating to watch, but it’s brilliant. It’s the reason he’s 31 years old and still making fools out of defenders to this day.
THREE: Ell Roberson was one hell of a quarterback for Kansas State, but he probably was the third best quarterback to come through Bill Snyder’s squad during that era. Take the time and get familiar with the legends that are Michael Bishop and Jonathan Beasley.
FOUR: Oklahoma would somehow not drop at all in the BCS rankings and made it into the national championship. This was because OU, LSU and USC all had one loss on their records. USC would end up defeating Michigan in a de facto home game at the 2004 Rose Bowl. OU would end up being defeated by the LSU Tigers (coached by Nick Saban) in a de facto home game at the 2004 Sugar Bowl. USC and LSU would split the national title, while Oklahoma ended up embarrassing me twice on national television.
FIVE: I’m going to encourage you to press replay on that video of Sproles from 11 years ago. Even though OU got its ass whupped (no Adrian Peterson), even I can admit that everything about this video clip is perfect. Watch it again.
The moral of this story? Darren Sproles should be considered a national treasure, and Kansas State will find some way to make its game versus Auburn very interesting.
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”