It’s not often that the Pittsburgh Steelers draft a sophomore, even if he is a redshirt sophomore. Then again, there are not a ton of sophomores who end up in the draft. But they got one this year in Anthony McFarland out of Maryland, who declared for the 2020 NFL Draft with two years of eligibility remaining after playing two collegiate seasons.
Though short, he has a pretty stout frame, though he doesn’t profile as a bell-cow back by any means, and potentially not even as a featured runner. The Steelers said after drafting him that they like the complementary quality that he brings to the room with his speed.
That was also one of the reasons, however, that he ended up being available in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. And that didn’t sit too well with him, as he told Missi Matthews during an interview with the team’s website recently, talking about, among other things, his experience watching the draft unfold and seeing the running backs taken ahead of him.
“It’s motivation, because what I felt on draft day, I never felt in my life, just watching people in my position just get picked before me”, he said. “That did something to me. That set something inside me that I never felt before. I never had that feeling before. I definitely feel like I’m hungrier than ever, as a player and as a person, just on a positive side”.
McFarland had an impressive freshman season in 2018, rushing for over 1000 yards on just 131 carries, averaging nearly eight yards per, with four touchdowns. While he doubled his touchdown production last season, he was less efficient, gaining 614 yards on 114 carries, but he also played most of the year through a high ankle sprain.
He considers that just another element of the adversity that he has worked his way through over the course of his life, however, and is ready to put it behind him and use it only positively as fuel to continue to grow, both personally and professionally.
“Just at the end of the day, it definitely does bring fuel to the fire”, he said. “Now that I’m actually here, whatever happened in the past is the past. It doesn’t matter no more. It’s just a number now, and it’s all up to me about how I handle the pressure and adversity and overcome everything that has to come with this sport on and off the field”.
His opportunities to have an impact as a rookie could largely be dictated by how much of an offseason the NFL is capable of getting in over the course of the next couple of months. Otherwise he may have to be content with contributing primarily on special teams until next year.