Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 26, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 50 of 55 SEPT. 26, 2016 51 IRISH IN THE PROS BY MATT JONES D etroit Lions running back Theo Riddick wasn't much of a rush- ing threat in 2015, despite having a breakout season that earned him a three-year contract extension. The former Notre Dame star was a valuable piece of the Lions' pass- ing game, however, finishing with 80 catches for 697 yards and three touchdowns. But in week one of the 2016 sea- son, Riddick did it all. Against the Indianapolis Colts, Riddick ran seven times for 45 yards and a touchdown plus added five catches for 63 yards and a score in a 39-35 victory. He averaged just 3.1 yards per carry in 2015 and had never gained more than 16 yards on any of his 72 career carries. That changed quickly in 2016, when he ran for a 21-yard touchdown on his first tote of the season. Riddick sat out part of the win with a potential head injury, but re- turned just fine. "Obviously, I told Coach [Jim Caldwell] that I was ready to go," Rid- dick told The Detroit Free Press. "And he let me spin and start executing." Two days before Riddick's big per- formance, the NFL Network reported he agreed to a three-year extension worth $12.75 million. Riddick was a sixth-round selection by the Lions in 2013. He tied for the NFL lead among running backs with 80 catches last year. His versatility makes him a key contributor behind No. 1 running back Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah and Riddick give Detroit a strong one-two punch. The duo had over 100 yards from scrimmage against the Colts. "It just gives us a lot of dimensions as an offense," Abdullah told report- ers. "It allows us to run our full of- fense no matter who's in the game and that's always a plus because you need to roll people in as the game goes on. "One person gets winded, the next guy has to come in ready to do the same thing, if not more, and I feel like that's what we bring and hope- fully we can continue that." Riddick is more than meets the eye. "It's an understatement to say he's a fine open-field runner," Caldwell said of Riddick. "He really can make some things happen. He has a lot of God-given ability to get north and south. He shows up a lot in crucial times of games. He's not afraid of the moment." WILL FULLER STARTS HIS CAREER WITH A BANG Former Notre Dame star wide re- ceiver Will Fuller let a deep ball slip through his hands late in the second quarter of his debut with the Hous- ton Texans and had just one catch for seven yards in the first half. However, the first-round draft pick who signed a four-year rookie con- tract worth $10.2 million rebounded after halftime. He torched the Chi- cago Bears, finishing with a team- high 107 receiving yards on five re- ceptions — including a touchdown — in a 23-14 victory. "He's not always perfect, but he practices hard and he's done a good job of learning the game," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien told the team's website. "Now, it's just one game. He has to take it and build on it and move on to the next game. "The one thing I know about Will, having known him for a while, he's a very resilient guy. He grew up in a great family, hard-working par- ents. I'm sure they taught him about, 'Look, sometimes you're going to get knocked down. You have to be able to pick yourself back up.' I think that's something he does well." The Texans never trailed after Full- er 's 18-yard touchdown catch with 12:44 left in the fourth quarter gave them a 20-14 lead. "It's a dream come true," Fuller said. "It's a lifelong dream." ✦ Theo Riddick Shines In 2016 Opener Riddick produced 108 total yards and two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving) on 12 offensive touches in the Detroit Lions' 39-35 victory at Indianapolis Sept. 11. PHOTO COURTESY DETROIT LIONS IRISH ROOKIES IN THEIR NFL DEBUTS • Sheldon Day (Played at Notre Dame from 2012-15), DL, Jacksonville Jaguars: Did not record any stats in the Jaguars' 27-23 loss to Green Bay. • Matthias Farley (2011-15), S, Indianapolis Colts: Saw action but did not record any stats in the Colts' 39-35 loss to Detroit. • Will Fuller (2013-15), WR, Houston Texans: Caught five passes for 107 yards and a touch- down in a 23-14 win over Chicago. • Romeo Okwara (2012-15), DL, New York Giants: Did not record any stats in the Giants' 20-19 win at Dallas. • C.J. Prosise (2012-15), RB, Seattle Se- ahawks: Had one carry for minus-two yards and one catch for 13 yards in the Seahawks' 12-10 win over Miami. • Ronnie Stanley (2012-15), OL, Baltimore Ravens: Started at left tackle and was part of an offensive line that allowed four sacks in the Ravens' 13-7 win over Buffalo.

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