Normally fifth round picks enter the league in relative anonymity but that's not the case the Tim Hightower. The Cardinals selected Hightower at least a round earlier than anyone else had him slotted and admitted after the draft that they almost took him in the fourth. Cardinals' running backs coach, Maurice Carthon, reportably offered the the Cards a 'money back guarantee' before the pick was made. He's been compared to recent Pro Bowl running back Marion Barber repeatably since draft day by the coaching staff and countless draft reviews. And so the legend grows.
Well today I ran across two separate interviews involving the man from Richmond. The first interview is with former pro scout Tom Marino who has more than 35 years of experience in the NFL and Marino makes no secret that he's a huge fan of Mr Hightower:
Most were surprised when the Cardinals selected Tim Hightower, what’s your take?
Tom Marino: Tim Hightower is a great pick. I’ve seen all the draft publications, and nobody ever mentioned him. I think in my mind that Hightower has a next level to him, beyond some of the first-rounders….In college, Hightower had a bulls-eye on him. He was a marked man in every game. He carried the ball over 300 times and almost ran for 2,000 yards.
What are Hightower’s biggest strengths?
TM: Hightower can catch, he can run, he has excellent vision and balance. The biggest thing about this guy is he never fumbled in 700 times carrying the ball. As a college football player that’s unheard of. I’d call him the best selection in the whole draft. This guy has a real chance of being a major contributor from the get go. He is one my favorite picks. In college, they couldn’t tackle the guy.
What’s Hightower’s style of play?
TM: Hightower is a North-South guy. He has a little burst with his vision and quickness. The Cardinals are going to be able to control the football with him. He is highly underrated. Hightower kind of reminds me of Marcus Allen, in style and how he runs the ball. Hightower is a fine pick. The Cardinals got themselves one of the best sleeper picks and the biggest steal.
The second interview is a short Q&A with Hightower himself and even though he doesn't compare himself to Marion Barber (like every else tries to) or any future Hall of Fame player (like Marino just did) he does say some of the things that make you like him already:
Dusty Wittig: Who were your favorite teams and players growing up?
Tim Hightower: I was always a
49ers fan and my favorite players were Walter Payton and Barry Sanders. San Francisco
DW: What are some of your goals for the upcoming season?
TH: I just want to contribute and help my team win. Any role they need me to play I will do it just to help my team be the best they can be.
DW: What are some of your strengths that you can bring to the Cardinals?
TH: Just my competitiveness. I compete in everything I do, wanting to be the best individually I can and to be part of the best team. I am always wanting to win.
DW: What are some things that you need to improve to become successful in the NFL?
TH: Right now, I just have to gain knowledge of the offense to be confident in what I’m doing. Pretty much just getting in great shape and learning this playbook inside and out.
Well I'm not ready to compare Hightower to any Pro Bowlers or Hall of Famers, I'm excited to see what he can do in camp and in preseason games. He seems to have the toughness and desire to contribute in some capacity from day one, even if just on special teams. He's presently fourth on the depth chart but Shipp and Arrington haven't exactly lit the NFL on fire throughout their career and their combined 2.5 yards per carry over the past two seasons (72 carries for 179 yards) is part of the reason why RB was a priority entering the draft. It's not out of the realm of possibility to think that Hightower could start the season as the #2 back at the end of camp if he can stay healthy and prove his worth. With Edge turning 30 years old about 2 months he could use some help shouldering the load. Is it crazy to think that Tim Hightower could unseat two veterans before the season starts or is anyone else getting caught up in Hightower's growing legend?