Sproles closing in on Wildcats' career rushing record

Updated: October 21, 2003, 6:43 PM ET

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Darren Sproles is about to break Kansas State's career rushing record -- and barring a catastrophe, he will do it two-thirds of the way through his junior season.

Getting Sproles to talk about the upcoming milestone, though, is about as easy as bringing him down in the open field.

"I don't like to talk about myself," said Sproles, who needs 17 yards rushing against Kansas on Saturday to break Eric Hickson's record of 2,537 yards. "I just don't."

Sproles' numbers are enough on their own.

In his breakout sophomore year, he set school single-season records with 1,465 yards rushing and 1,800 all-purpose yards.

This year, despite being the target of opposing defenses, running behind a line with four new starters and playing sparingly in several nonconference games, Sproles has 846 yards and eight touchdowns on 146 carries.

"If we just give him a little opening, he finds a way," left guard Ryan Lilja said. "He makes us look better than we are."

Coach Bill Snyder said he wasn't surprised that Sproles was closing in on the record so quickly.

"If I was surprised by anything, it was that he didn't approach it a little quicker," Snyder said.

Sproles' success has been a surprise to those who said he was too small to make an impact at the major college level after a stellar high school career in suburban Kansas City.

Count Lilja, who played against Sproles in high school, among the converts.

"I thought, 'Oh, this guy's overhyped," Lilja said. "I was playing defense at the time, and he got something like 319 yards on us. People said the same thing about him at this level, and look what he's done here."

Sproles, who is listed at 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds, says he's up to 188. Even so, he's still nobody's idea of a power back.

"That's the main thing people say about me, that I'm too small," he said with a shrug. "That's what they've always said."

Sproles makes up for his lack of size with a shifty running style that makes it hard for opponents to draw a bead on him -- and aside from a thigh bruise that caused him to miss much of a 41-5 rout of Troy State on Aug. 30, he has been a model of durability.

"He's a fighter," quarterback Ell Roberson said. "That's something you don't see out of too many backs these days."

Sproles could have broken the record with 107 yards in last week's 49-20 win over Colorado. He finished with 90 yards and one TD on 14 carries -- while Roberson carried 25 times, ran for two touchdowns and threw for three more.

"When he doesn't get the ball, he's still the same person," Roberson said. "You don't get the nagging, all that stuff about not getting carries. He's a total team player."

When the record does come -- as it likely will Saturday -- Sproles said he won't stop to celebrate.

"When the game's over with, it'll probably hit me," he said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index