Austin Ekeler’s Rise: NFL Success Story of the Underrated Star

Austin Ekeler’s journey to the NFL is a tale of determination and grit. Originally eyeing a career in the oil and gas industry, Ekeler’s passion for football led him to pivot towards chasing his NFL dream. Despite the odds, he went from undrafted rookie to securing a spot with the Los Angeles Chargers, proving that perseverance pays off.

In this article, we’ll dive into Ekeler’s impressive transition from college athlete to NFL standout. From his initial struggles to his breakout performances on the field, Ekeler’s story is one of relentless ambition and hard-earned success. Get ready to explore how this tenacious running back has become a key player for the Chargers and an inspiration to aspiring athletes everywhere.

Who is Austin Ekeler?

Early Life and College Career

Starting off as an underestimated athlete, Austin Ekeler’s humble beginnings in Eaton High School paved his way to Western Colorado University, where he left a lasting legacy. Undersized but not outplayed, Ekeler stood a mere 5-foot-8 yet defied expectations by securing the role of a team captain throughout his four seasons. At Western, he set imposing career records, not merely in one category, but across rushing yards, attempts, touchdowns, and scoring. His prowess on the ground was unmatched, as he led Division II in rushing yards per game during his senior year. This performance brought him into the spotlight as a finalist for the 2016 Harlon Hill Trophy, marking a historic moment for Western as Ekeler became the school’s first nominee for the award.

Although his aspirations could have led him to a career in the oil and gas industry as a landman, Ekeler’s dream of NFL glory couldn’t be sidelined. With a Business Administration degree focusing on Energy Management in sight, he paused his academic pursuits after his senior season, zeroing in on training for the 2017 NFL Draft. Despite being overlooked during the draft, Ekeler’s tenacity was not diminished — it only fueled his determination.

NFL Career

Austin Ekeler’s journey to the NFL was nothing short of a testament to perseverance. Going undrafted didn’t deter him as he clinched a spot with the Los Angeles Chargers as a rookie free agent. Ekeler’s rookie season stats were a clear indication of his dual-threat capability on the field, boasting 260 rushing yards and 279 receiving yards with an impressive tally of five touchdowns.

Even after making his mark in his debut NFL season, Ekeler returned to his studies, exemplifying the fusion of athleticism and academics. His commitment earned him Western’s Alumni Award of Excellence, a testament to his impact on and off the field. His connection to Western Colorado University remains unbreakable, as he fondly recalls his time there with the resonant phrase, “Mountaineer for life.”

The numbers speak for themselves; Ekeler’s performance has been consistently strong despite the occasional setbacks of lost fumbles. He shines not only in rushing attempts but also as a dependable receiver, demonstrating versatility that any team would value. In the face of adversities like the loss to the Ravens, his ability to rebound and remain a formidable RB1 against formidable opponents underscores his resilience and skill. With each game, Ekeler continues to build on his NFL career, reminding fans and aspiring athletes alike that hard work and ambition can indeed lead to unexpected and remarkable pathways.

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The Rise of Austin Ekeler

Overcoming Obstacles

Austin Ekeler’s journey through the NFL is marked by a series of challenges that he’s consistently overcome. Standing at just 5-foot-8, Ekeler was an overlooked prospect who faced significant odds. He’s battled the perception of being “undersized” but has proven time and again that determination and skill can triumph over physical stereotyping. Despite the hurdles, he secured a spot with the Los Angeles Chargers as a rookie free agent, reflecting his unwavering resolve and dedication to the sport.

Even after making it to the professional level, Ekeler’s path has been fraught with adversity. Injuries have been a stumbling block, with a high-ankle sprain sidelining him and impacting his performance upon his return. A visible indicator of this was Ekeler being held to under 4.0 yards per carry in the majority of games post-injury. Additionally, fumbles have posed a challenge, with Ekeler losing three in just eight games for that season, an uncommon occurrence for the normally reliable back. Yet, these setbacks haven’t detracted from his career; instead, they’ve underscored his ability to bounce back— a quality essential to any enduring athlete.

Breaking Records

During his tenure at Western Colorado University, Ekeler not only commenced his rise but shattered records along the way. Ekeler’s college career is nothing short of remarkable, as he set career records in rushing yards, rushing attempts, scoring, and rushing touchdowns for the Mountaineers. His electrifying performance on the field led him to be a top performer nationwide, leading all of Division II in rushing yards per game during his senior year.

Ekeler’s record-setting college career culminated with a nod for the Harlon Hill Trophy, the Division II equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, marking the first time a Western player had been a finalist. His rookie season statistics further proved his caliber, with Ekeler posting 260 rushing yards, 279 receiving yards, and a combination of five touchdowns, demonstrating his dual-threat nature early on.

On the academic front, Ekeler matched his athletic prowess with scholastic achievement. He majored in Business Administration with an emphasis in Energy Management, a rare discipline offered by just a handful of universities at the time. His academic diligence earned him the designation of an Academic All-American three times over, reflecting a commitment to success not only on the field but also in the classroom.

Ekeler’s dedication to excellence stands as a testament to his relentless drive, regardless of whether he’s dodging tackles on the gridiron or navigating the complexities of energy management. His journey tells a story of unyielding commitment and passion—a narrative that continues to inspire fans and aspiring athletes alike.

Ekeler’s Playing Style

Versatility on the Field

Austin Ekeler’s ascent in the NFL is largely attributed to his versatile playing style. On the field, he’s known as a dual-threat, capable of making significant plays both as a runner and as a pass catcher. This versatility ensures he is an all-down back, contributing to the Los Angeles Chargers offense in multifaceted ways. Ekeler’s career highlights feature games where he’s racked up yards with equal prowess through rushes and receptions, illustrating his balanced skill set. His role in the passing game is particularly notable, given his ability to convert short passes into substantial gains, providing the Chargers with a strategic edge over opponents.

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Not just limited to offensive maneuvers, Ekeler’s football intelligence allows him to actively engage in pass protection, showcasing his comprehensive understanding of the game. Durability and adaptability have also been hallmarks of his playstyle, managing to remain a consistent threat even amidst the physical demands and high intensity of the league. Ekeler’s statistics from various games reflect his ability to bounce back from setbacks such as fumbles and continue making substantial contributions to the team’s performance.

Speed and Agility

The backbone of Ekeler’s playstyle lies in his incredible Speed and Agility. Despite being considered undersized for the NFL, standing at 5-foot-8, his athletic abilities betray his stature. He has a knack for finding gaps in the defense and exploiting them rapidly, using his swift footwork to evade tackles. During his tenure at Western Colorado University, Ekeler’s notable speed and agility made him a dominant force in Division II football, subsequently translating into his professional career.

His quick acceleration is especially advantageous when running routes as a receiver out of the backfield, creating mismatches against linebackers who struggle to match his pace. Ekeler’s agility is just as impressive; his lateral movements and juke capabilities render defenders bewildered, leading to decisive plays and often, significant gains for the Chargers. This agility not only proves effective in open field scenarios but also contributes to his ability to recover from potential losses, maintaining forward momentum even in the face of defensive pressure.

Ekeler’s Impact on the Chargers

Key Performances

Austin Ekeler’s tenure with the Los Angeles Chargers is marked by numerous standout performances, demonstrating his capacity as a dual-threat running back. In his rookie year alone, Ekeler accumulated 260 rushing yards, 279 receiving yards, and five touchdowns, hinting at the dynamic presence he’d continue to offer the team. Notably resilient, Ekeler made a swift return after facing a high-ankle sprain, a notoriously challenging injury for running backs.

Facing adversity, Ekeler’s performances occasionally witnessed a dip, as seen in the games following his injury. He was held to under 4.0 yards per carry consistently—aside from a surge against Green Bay—revealing the struggle to reclaim his pre-injury peak. However, even amid recovery, Ekeler’s ability to impact the scoreboard and serve as a reliable option for quarterback Justin Herbert was undiminished. Despite the setback of consecutive fumbles in recent games, his commitment to rebound has been unwavering.

Team Contributions

Ekeler’s role within the Chargers goes beyond mere statistics; his contributions resonate on and off the field. As a leader and a team motivator, Ekeler’s journey from a probable career in the oil and gas industry to NFL Pro Bowl selection underscores his determination and work ethic. His intelligence in both football and business—the latter apparent from his Business Administration major with an emphasis in Energy Management—translates into strategic insights during play.

By maintaining strong ties with Western Colorado University, where he was a three-time Academic All-American and recipient of the prestigious Alumni Award of Excellence, Ekeler stands as an exemplary figure to his teammates. He fosters a culture of persistence and academic prowess, setting standards for up-and-coming athletes. His versatility as a player and adaptability in varying game scenarios bolsters the Chargers’ offensive options, preparing the team to face challenges against formidable defenses like the Patriots in the upcoming games. Austin Ekeler’s value to the Chargers extends beyond the yardage gained on the ground, making him a staple figure in the franchise’s pursuit of excellence.

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Ekeler’s Off-Field Endeavors

Community Involvement

Austin Ekeler’s contributions extend far beyond the football field. His community involvement is a testament to his commitment to making a positive impact. Ekeler dedicates his time and resources to various charitable causes, particularly those that enhance the lives of underprivileged youth. Engaging with fans at events and supporting local non-profits have been cornerstones of his off-field activities. Ekeler’s efforts demonstrate his understanding that success carries a responsibility to give back and foster communities where everyone can thrive.

Business Ventures

Apart from his athletic prowess and community spirit, Ekeler also showcases a keen sense for business. Armed with a degree in Business Administration and an emphasis in Energy Management, he’s well-equipped to venture into the business world. His academic background, combined with real-world experience from an internship at one of Colorado’s leading oil and gas producers, prepares him for potential future forays into the energy sector. Ekeler’s business interests may range from energy solutions to entrepreneurial pursuits that leverage his NFL experience and personal brand.


Austin Ekeler’s ascent from an overlooked prospect to a standout NFL star is a testament to his unwavering determination and exceptional talent. His journey is not just a narrative of personal triumph but also a source of inspiration for anyone with professional dreams that seem out of reach. On the field, Ekeler’s dynamic presence continues to energize the Los Angeles Chargers, proving that resilience and hard work can indeed pay off. Off the field, his commitment to community and savvy approach to life after football underscore his multifaceted impact. Whether it’s breaking tackles or building bridges in the community, Ekeler embodies the spirit of a true professional athlete, making his mark both as a player and a person.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Austin Ekeler’s journey to the NFL?

Austin Ekeler went from being an underestimated athlete to a successful NFL player. After shining at Western Colorado University and being a finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, Ekeler signed with the Los Angeles Chargers as an undrafted free agent. His resilience and versatility have made him a standout player in the league.

What records did Austin Ekeler set in college?

At Western Colorado University, Ekeler set numerous records, including career rushing yards, and was a Harlon Hill Trophy finalist, which is awarded to the top player in Division II football.

Did Austin Ekeler have other career options before the NFL?

Yes, Ekeler had the opportunity to pursue a career in the oil and gas industry after an internship, but he remained focused on his goal of playing in the NFL.

How did Austin Ekeler join the Los Angeles Chargers?

Austin Ekeler joined the Los Angeles Chargers as an undrafted rookie free agent, proving his skills during the offseason and securing a spot on the team.

What makes Austin Ekeler a dual-threat player?

Ekeler’s ability to rack up both rushing and receiving yards showcases his dual-threat capability. This versatility has made him a valuable asset on the field for the Chargers.

How does Austin Ekeler contribute to his community?

Aside from his NFL commitments, Ekeler is actively involved in charitable causes and frequently engages with fans. His community involvement includes various initiatives to give back and make a positive impact.

What are some of Austin Ekeler’s off-field business ventures?

Ekeler has interests in business ventures outside of football, leveraging his academic background and internship experience in the energy sector, which may influence future endeavors after his football career.

Did Austin Ekeler change his diet for performance?

Yes, Austin Ekeler has become more plant-based in his diet after being influenced by others around him, including a fully vegan teammate. This change is part of his strategy to maintain peak performance levels.

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