C.J. Prosise saw the success of another receiver-turned-running back from Notre Dame in the NFL and it gave him a target to emulate.
Prosise was a true freshman when Theo Riddick played his final year with the Irish in 2012. Riddick transitioned from receiver to running back, the position he now plays with the Detroit Lions. So Prosise had a template in college. Now he’s hoping that follows along to the pros.
“I definitely think I can mirror it,” Prosise said. “Theo also played receiver at Notre Dame and that’s something I’m trying to mimic, what he’s done and trying to take the steps that he’s taken.”
Riddick’s transition was different. Riddick entered college as a running back and returner before switching to receiver for two seasons and then back to running back. In the NFL, he’s been a pass-catching running back who rarely rushes.
Prosise was a standout safety in high school who transitioned to wide receiver full-time at Notre Dame. After sitting out his freshman year, he played two years at receiver before moving to running back last season.
He’s also bigger than Riddick at 6-foot, 220 pounds, which could make him attractive to Detroit if he’s available on the third day of the draft. Prosise proved he can run between the tackles and catch passes from the outside. He also showed some speed, running a 4.48-second 40-yard dash at last month’s NFL combine. His overall versatility as a receiver, runner and capable special-teams player (he was Notre Dame’s special teams player of the year in 2014) could fit what Lions general manager Bob Quinn wants.
While he has the same background as Riddick, he might compare better to Joique Bell, who was released in February.
“That’s a big thing, you know,” Prosise said. “You don’t find a lot of guys who might be able to run in-between tackles and might be able to break a formation and also make plays in the passing game. I think I’m a commodity in that sense and I definitely want to keep working on that.”
Prosise is still learning the position. At Notre Dame, he played in a spread offense, so he hasn’t experienced the extra bodies up front in the NFL yet. It’s one of the things he has to learn.
Prosise knows he’s not a polished running back. He’s spent one season at the position but uncertainty at Notre Dame at receiver actually helped send him to the draft. He didn’t know if Irish coach Brian Kelly would shift him away from running back and he sensed that would be his future position in the pros.
So he stuck with it and declared. He becomes more intriguing because of the lack of wear on his body. Many running backs come into the NFL with hundreds of carries and hits on their body. Prosise had only 166 carries for 1,158 yards and 12 touchdowns in essentially a season at running back for Notre Dame. He also caught 63 passes for 896 yards and three touchdowns in his three seasons with the Irish.
And to get advice for what to expect over the next month and in the future, he reached out to the player whose career path he wouldn’t mind following: Riddick.
“Just go out and do your thing,” Prosise said. “He kept it real short and simple with me. I have talked to him. He said go out there and do your thing and play to the best of your abilities.”