HOOVER, Ala. -- Alabama senior running back Kenyan Drake is looking forward to his trip to Athens this October. The Powder Springs native grew up a Bulldogs fan and said he’s anticipating playing in front of the Sanford Stadium crowd for the first time in his career.
Drake, however, had the opportunity to play many games for his home-state team, but he committed to the Crimson Tide over Georgia in 2012 instead.
“I think it was because of the fact that it was Alabama and I like to be a winner,” Drake said, when asked why he chose the Crimson Tide over Georgia. “Honestly, at the end of the day, going to Alabama would put me in the best position to be the person I want to be on and off the field.”
To Drake’s credit, he has been a part of two SEC championship teams in 2012 and 2014, with Alabama’s 2012 team defeating Georgia in the SEC title game 32-28.
But on the Bulldogs’ side, they did pretty well at the running back position in the Class of 2012. They signed Todd Gurley, who went on to become the 10th overall pick by the St. Louis Rams in the 2015 NFL draft, and inked Keith Marshall, who was regarded as one of the best running backs in the nation out of high school.
Drake later wrote on his personal Twitter account that, “Everything is always taken out of context.”
Through three seasons, Drake has rushed for a total of 1,087 yards and 17 touchdowns in a Crimson Tide uniform. His season was cut short a year ago after suffering a gruesome broken leg in Alabama’s loss to Mississippi. Drake has since spent his time rehabbing the injury while getting into shape for the upcoming season.
“Sometimes when I didn’t feel like working, (the Alabama training staff) would push me,” Drake said. “It’s definitely been a hard road. I’ve never had an injury to that extent before. Once it happened, I had to really realize this wouldn’t be a two- or three-week injury, it’s going to be a four- or five-month injury. I still kind of have aches and pains a little bit, but it’s all about your mindset and I’m ready to get back on the field with my teammates.”
With Drake getting through his recovery without any setbacks to date, Alabama head coach Nick Saban said he’ll be expected to contribute in a versatile role. Drake’s teammates have previously compared him to former Southern Cal and current San Francisco 49ers running back Reggie Bush due to his speed and quickness in the open field. Drake did line up as a receiver during spring practice, which could be a wrinkle Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin tries to utilize this year.
“(Drake) has so many things that he does well,” Saban said. “He has great speed. He has very good running skills and running instincts, but he’s a fantastic receiver. In his position, it’s a little bit easier to almost create mismatches for him to be able to use those skills as a receiver than it would be if we played him at receiver because I think, if we played him at receiver, he would be one of the better receivers on our team.”
Although he could get some time in the slot, Drake should still see plenty of reps in the backfield with junior running back Derrick Henry.
While Drake is excited to compete against his childhood favorite in Athens, the Oct. 3 game against the Bulldogs will hold additional significance for Drake. Having broke his leg on Oct. 4, 2014, the game will serve as a milestone in his recovery.
“It’s definitely going to be really cool,” Drake said. “I honestly grew up a Georgia fan. I’m from Georgia. To play back at Sanford Stadium and almost to the day of the anniversary of me being injured, it’s definitely going to be really cool to play ball between the hedges.”