Toting the Rock: 7 keys to success for running backs | Youth1

Toting the Rock: 7 keys to success for running backs

You can ask any football fan around and they’ll tell you there’s nothing like watching a hard-nosed running back. The power, the speed and the aggressiveness of a good running back can light up a field any night. Football fans old and new love a guy that can bring a strong rushing attack to their favorite team. There’s nothing like watching a tailback cut through the teeth of a defense on a long touchdown run.

The world recently witnessed arguably the best running back duo in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel from the University of Georgia manhandle the University of Oklahoma defense. Their ability to take on defenders down field coupled with blazing speed and elusiveness has made them a household name and both will more than likely be drafted.

Could you be the next leading rusher for your team?

We asked David Schuman, CEO of NUC Sports, what it takes to be a leading rusher. Schuman, whose prestigious football training programs has trained incredible talent as NFL running backs Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette and Melvin Gordon, offers,  "As a former running back, I understand the importance of working on all skills, but there are three essential skills that you must focus on 1. Speed: the faster you get the more dangerous you are! 2. Change of direction and vertical burst, and 3. Vision, so you know what holes to pick and how to pick 'em." If you do that you will take the steps to become a great running back."

Agreeably, there are so many different skills you must have to be a standout running back on the field. Here's our picks, which echo the sentiments of experts like Schuman.


In some ways, you will be expected to be immortal. You will take a number of beatings; shots to the knee, hits on your arms, waist and legs and you’ll probably have a scrape or two. But if you’re not durable, you will not survive.

You will take a beating during every game. There is no way around it. But there are things you can do to help you become a sturdy running back.

First and foremost, a good running back is a gym rat. Most of the defenders you take on will be much bigger than you, so realistically, there’s no way for you to handle the crushing blow unless your made of steel. Pumping iron coupled with a balanced diet is a surefire way to handle the wrath and fury of those linebackers waiting to pummel you.

Second off, do not underestimate the recovery process. It is important to stay fresh leading up to the game and give yourself ample time to heal. Every kid wants to enjoy a pick-up game of basketball with his friends on the weekends but too much wear and tear on the body will hinder the recovery process. Know your limits.


Football fans love to watch a running back get free and skate into the end zone untouched. There’s only one way a guy can do that, and that is with a ton of speed.

There are hundreds of videos online that demonstrate how to increase your speed, but cone drills are one of the best.

Cone drills force you to move horizontally, just as you would during a game. The exercise forces your feet to shift from right to left at a fast pace and mimics the movements you would do in the actual game. Start there and feel free to implement any other drills you find to be fun or challenging.


As you sit behind the offensive line, you must have a high football IQ in order to understand how the play is set up. Once the ball is snapped, you have to have the vision to find a seam and get through it quickly.


A key component to being competitive is running with reckless abandon. How many times does a running back see a defender coming full throttle but still tries to get past him? It happens often but it can’t be done without a ton of courage. You will have a target on your back. Your opponents will know your name, height, weight and they’ll probably know all of your stats. You are the guy they want to slow down.


One of the biggest challenges you will face as a running back is learning how to get over your mistakes. There will be times when you’ll fumble and on certain occasions, it will happen at the most inopportune time, such as in the red zone, or even worse, in the end zone. Still, you’ll have to march right back to the sideline, figure out what you did wrong and get ready for the next possession. You will often hear coaches tell players to have “short memory”. That’s a phrase used to motivate an athlete who has just had a huge blunder. If you focus too long on your errors, it will haunt you for the rest of the game and could have a major impact on how you finish. Remember, no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and you too can right your wrongs.


Do not let the thought of blocking intimidate you. No one is expecting you take on a 300-pound lineman but you will be expected to hold off a linebacker or someone from the secondary every now and then.


This is by far probably one of the biggest challenges you will face as a running back. There will be times when it will be your fault and there will be times when a defender sneaks up behind you and punches the ball out. Either way, the feeling of a turnover is gut wrenching but there are a couple ways to prevent it from happening.

First and foremost, never run with the ball away from your body. The ball should be tucked away in the middle of your arm, right where your forearm begins and should be held close to your side. Sure it’s fun to run wild on the field with your arms out but that’s like hanging a piece of steak in front of a lion. There’s not a defender on this planet that wouldn’t hunt you down to strip the ball away.

Another important tip when it comes to ball security is to ensure the exchange between you and the quarterback goes smooth. Coaches always tell their guys to put the ball in the lower chest and upper stomach area of the running back. From there, you should be able to secure the ball tightly in that area and turn up field. The key component to doing this is trusting what the coaches are telling you and not trying to do something you shouldn’t do.

Now that you know what it takes to be a stud at this position, get out there on your local field and start prepping. Your just eight months away from the start of the season and it’s never to early to get started. Remember, in football, there is no offseason!


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