Early comparison to Brown put pressure on Ohio State’s Wells
By RANDY COVITZ
The Kansas City Star
“He absolutely reminds me of Jim Brown. I know I shouldn’t say that, but I’ve told him that, too.”
| Ohio State running backs coach Dick Tressel, February 2006
Chris “Beanie” Wells had no chance to live up to those expectations. It would have been daunting enough to be compared to Ohio State Heisman Trophy winners Eddie George, Archie Griffin or even Howard “Hopalong” Cassady.
But Tressel, the older brother of Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel, put an enormous amount of pressure on Wells by evoking the name of Brown, the greatest running back, if not greatest player, in pro football history on the day Wells signed with Ohio State.
Three years later, as Wells prepares for the NFL draft — where he is expected to be the first or second running back selected — he reflected on the comparison to Brown, a comment Jim Tressel later seconded.
“That was exciting,” Wells said at the NFL scouting combine. “It’s a blessing and an honor to even be mentioned in the same sentence with Jim Brown. He’s a great running back and a great ambassador for the sport of football.”
Wells, 6 feet 2, 237 pounds, had a distinguished three-year career at Ohio State, helping the Buckeyes to appearances in the 2006 and 2007 BCS national championship games and rushing for 3,282 yards.
And Dick Tressel had no regrets about the Jim Brown comparison.
“I didn’t catch any flack for that,” Tressel told reporters last fall. “Nobody said I was crazy. They might have thought it or they might have said it to each other.
“I’m old enough that I saw Jim Brown run. They have a similar gait, they’re both big guys and have speed to go with their size. For me, that was an easy, natural comparison.”
But Wells didn’t win a Heisman Trophy at Ohio State, a school that has won seven statuettes. He never was a consensus All-American.
Mostly, he was in the headlines because of injuries. He suffered a left ankle sprain, right wrist sprain and thumb fracture in 2007; a right foot sprain, turf toe, hamstring strain in 2008 and a concussion that caused him to miss a portion of the Fiesta Bowl.
Despite the injuries, Wells missed just three games and finished his career fourth on Ohio State’s career rushing list behind Griffin, George and Tim Spencer. But whether Wells can handle the pounding in the NFL is the single biggest question teams have.
“My foot’s great,” Wells said. “I feel 100 percent, completely, my whole body feels healthy. I tell (teams) I was nicked up. I don’t think it was anything where I missed the whole season. I missed three games in three years. Things happen.
“All last year I played with a broken wrist. This year I played with a messed-up toe. So I know I can handle it.”
Wells admits he played tentatively at the start of last season because of the nagging ankle sprain from the year before.
“I guess you can say I was a little tentative,” said Wells, one of 11 children who picked up the nickname Beanie from one of his older brothers because he was so long and stringy as a baby.
“With that injury, you’re always going to be thinking about it … fresh off an injury trying to get back in there in the swing of things.”
Wells, who is also known for using a powerful stiff-arm to ward off tacklers, caught just 15 passes in his three seasons at Ohio State, and had to show scouts in workouts that he can be a receiver coming out of the backfield.
“A lot of people have that question, ‘Can he catch?’ ” Wells said. “It just wasn’t a part of our scheme at Ohio State. It wasn’t a knock on our running backs. If you date back in history, I don’t think a running back at Ohio State has caught over 13 balls in four or five years.”
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