Hall of Fame running back Edgerrin James explains why Ezekiel Elliott reminds him of himself

Edgerrin James was the Swiss Army knife of running backs. He won a pair of rushing titles and had five seasons with at least 50 receptions during his time with the Colts. A shifty running back who was never afraid of contact, James’ agility and creativity helped him turn what would have been modest gains into game-breaking plays. James’ excellence on the gridiron will be recognized on Saturday night in Canton, Ohio, when the former Colt and Cardinal will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

Before heading to Canton, James jumped on the “All Things Covered” podcast with Patrick Peterson and Bryant McFadden. James tackled a number of topics that included naming some of his favorite modern day running backs. 

“I like watching Alvin Kamara,” James said. “I like Dalvin Cook. I watched him in high school. Watching him turn into one of the top guys in the league, that’s a beautiful sight.”

James also answered the question of which modern day running back most reminds him of himself. He picked a player who, like him, won the NFL rushing title during his rookie season. 

“I like Zeke,” James said while referring to Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. “He finishes strong. He plays with that low pad level. [He’s] tough, he’s going to get everything out of a run. … He’s trying to punish you, he’s trying to finish that run strong.” 

McFadden agreed with James, saying that, if Elliott switched from No. 21 to 32 and wore James’ old face mask, the similarities would be uncanny. Elliott, who matched James’ tally by winning his second rushing title in 2018, is surely hoping to mimic what James was able to do during the midpoint of his career. After winning back-to-back rushing titles to begin his career, James missed 12 games to injury over the next two seasons. James rebounded with five consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns that included a pair of Pro Bowl berths. In 2008, James helped the Cardinals advance to their first-ever Super Bowl. 

Elliott is no longer the first or even second name mentioned in the conversation of the NFL’s best running back. The usual suspects include Kamara, Cook, Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey. Elliott (who rushed for a career-low 979 yards last season) will be back in the conversation with a strong 2021 season. The returns of quarterback Dak Prescott and linemen Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and La’el Collins will certainly help Elliott reclaim his standing as arguably the league’s best running back. Elliott has further increased his odds for a big season after reportedly getting himself into the best shape of his career. 

James knows how important quarterback play is for a running back. James’ best seasons were spent sharing a backfield with Peyton Manning, who on Sunday will receive his bronze bust and gold jacket a day after James receives his. 

“When there’s a chance to be a Hall of Famer, that’s big enough,” he said. “But then all of the sudden you say ‘I get to go in with my man [Peyton], you know that’s the icing on the cake.”


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