First things first: LaRod Stephens-Howling isn’t going to return punts. Not right now. The Hyphen has talked to special teams coach Kevin Spencer about it, and he’s given it a try in practice. But it’s just not The Hyphen.
“I mean, returning punts is one of the hardest jobs there is,” Stephens-Howling said. “It is something I work on every offseason and I try to get more comfortable at it. That’s not to say I won’t do it in the future. I’ll keep working on it, and hopefully I will get comfortable enough to be able to do it.”
Told the fan base wouldn’t mind him having a shot, Stephens-Howling smiled. “It feels good they have that confidence,” he said. He just doesn’t have the confidence right now.
That’s one of the few things The Hyphen isn’t comfortable with, however. His 102-yard kickoff return Sunday was a huge play (broken down right here, and on video right here). He’s a long way since draft day 2009 when he broke down multiple times – including on a conference call with reporters – because he was so happy to be picked.
Coincidentally, Stephens-Howling draws comparisons to another small running back, Darren Sproles, who happens to play for the team the Cards will see Sunday – the Chargers. Sproles also has played a role in where Stephens-Howling is today.
Seems the offensive line coach at Pitt when LSH was in college – Paul Dunn – was at Kansas State when Sproles was there. Stephens-Howling followed Sproles closely when Sproles was in college and LSH in high school. When The Hyphen got to Pitt, Dunn put on video of Sproles to show what Dun thought Stephens-Howling could be. “That was the film that let me know I had a shot at the NFL,” Stephens-Howling said.
Stephens-Howling, all 5-foot-7 of him, has already changed the way coach Ken Whisenhunt looks at smaller players. “I have certainly learned a great lesson with LaRod,” Whiz said. “I think it’s easy to look at a player’s size and have preconceived ideas what his limitations are. … I can say now, my thinking on that has changed tremendously.”
The Hyphen and Sproles met for the first time following the Cards-Chargers preseason game in 2009. They briefly talked about Dunn and their spots in the league.
“We’re the underdogs,” The Hyphen said. “We don’t get much but when we get the opportunity we try and get all we can.”
Tags: Chargers, Darren Sproles, Ken Whisenhunt, LaRod Stephens-Howling
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