Austin Ekeler of the Los Angeles Chargers has emerged as one of the top running backs in the NFL and while he entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2017, Ekeler is not the type of player who has a chip on his shoulder. PopCulture.com recently caught up with the 26-year-old running back who explained why he is not upset about being drafted.
"I've never really been one to hold a grudge or be like, 'Ah, y'all should have taken me,'" Ekeler told PopCulture. "It's like, it's never really been my outlook on life really, it's been...because I didn't prepare to go to the NFL, like I didn't think I was going to be in the NFL. I thought I was going to go in the business world, I got my business degree and I thought I was going to be going that route. So, what carried over though, was my mind, my mind was all about, "Hey, I'm trying to become the best Austin Ekeler that I can become." And what does that mean? That means I'm putting 100% maximum effort into things that I'm passionate about, things that I'm interested in learning. And that's what led me to get to the position that I am today. And that's what it continues to be."
Ekeler signed with the Chargers in 2017 from Western Colorado. He made the initial 53-man roster and finished his rookie season with 539 yards from scrimmage. He continued to improve each year, leading to a breakout season in 2019, rushing for 557 yards while also posting 993 receiving yards on 92 receptions with 11 total touchdowns. And through six games this season, Ekeler has scored seven rushing and receiving touchdowns which leads the NFL.
"I had confidence in myself, but I didn't really know the circumstances of if I was going to make the team or not," Ekeler said. "One thing that I was definitely confident in, is that I was giving everything. I literally dropped out of my last semester of college just to train for it, and I put, like I said, 100% effort. So, after I played my last preseason game of my rookie year, I got asked the same question, like 'You think you did enough to make it?' I said, 'I don't know if I did enough to make it, but I do know that I could not have done anything else in my power, to put a better product as far as what Austin Ekeler is.' And it was good enough, and I made the team, and then have been growing on it ever since."
Ekeler's success on the field has led to him doing big things in the community. He recently partnered up with Sleep Number and GENYOUth in Los Angeles to help educate students at Bethune Middle School the importance of sleep for overall health, wellness and academic performance. And while Ekeler is happy to help kids have better overall health, he never thought that he would be in a position to give back.
"I never knew I was going to be in this position in the first place, coming into the NFL," Ekeler revealed. "And then, as you start to take advantage and get more opportunities, you start to learn more about yourself. And when people, I think, ask about you and your path, you start to reflect upon how you've got to the place where you've got to, and that's kind of what's happened to me. And then that's why I've taken mental health and physical health so seriously, just because it's been a part of who I am, and that's kind of what I've practiced, and I'm like... I can help other people just by kind of sharing my story, and hopefully giving them something to relate to, or something that I did that they can maybe learn from."