Patrick Laird would make Marshawn Lynch proud.
The Golden Bears’ 6’0”, 205 bruiser has made a name for himself in his senior season, rushing for over 900 yards on the ground on a 4.3 per clip. He was also used heavily in the passing game, as the former wide receiver hauled in 50 balls for another 291 yards, but wasn’t much of a game breaker in that regard, picking up just over four yards per reception.
Laird’s story is one of the good ones in college football - the former walk-on had mostly ivy league offers coming off of a 3,000 yard, 32 touchdown season his senior year at Mission Prep in San Luis Obispo. Laird earned his scholarship heading into his junior year at Cal, becoming the feature back when current Texas RB Tre Watson elected to transfer. Laird went over 1,000 yards a year ago, scoring eight times and rushing for nearly six yards per carry. He slowed down a big in his final campaign, but was still highly effective as a between the tackles rusher and chain-mover. He doesn’t have break away speed, per say, but has reeled off a 60+ yard run in each of the past two seasons.
Off the field, Laird is an accomplished music producer, who balances his love of creating with a double major in business administration and political science as well as his organization, Walk On the Run, that inspires children to read more and be life-long learners.
It’s going to be really hard to root against this guy, isn’t it?
I mean, the guy’s touchdown celebration is him miming reading a book.
Laird is the typical “tough-guy”, a football player who eschews video games in favor of books, who worked his way up the depth chart by standing out on the practice field and in the weight room, and earned the respect of his peers to the tune of being named captain this year. He had nine games with at least 16 carries and caught at least one ball in every game he played, with his best effort of the year coming against Oregon State - when he toted the rock 22 times for 193 yards in addition to hauling in three passes for 48 yards, totaling three touchdowns on the day. That game came after a players-only meeting that centered around Laird and the rest of the offense promising to pick up more slack for a defense that allowed 30+ points just twice on the year and kept seven of 12 opponents at 21 or below.
Cal will likely turn to their senior running back early and often against TCU, looking to establish the run game, wear down the powerful Frog defensive front, and keep the offense off the field. None of the three Cal QBs that saw snaps completed anything over 62% of their passes (though Laird himself was 2-2!), so the running game is obviously the key to moving the ball for the Golden Bears. It gets pretty sparse after Laird, though, with no other Cal RB having more than 23 rushing attempts.
As Laird goes, so go the Golden Bears, and it will be up to Gary Patterson and the TCU defense to keep him from making an impact.