The Arizona Cardinals’ leading rusher in the 32-0 win over the Houston Texans was Zach Bauman.
The same Zach Bauman, of course, who attended Chandler Hamilton High School before going on to be the all-time leading rusher for Northern Arizona University.
An undrafted free agent, Bauman’s first carry went for 13 yards.
It was quite a start.
“It really was surreal; it was breathtaking,” Bauman told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday. “I usually don’t get nervous for football, but coach called my number and told me to get out there, and it was actually a timeout so we’re just standing out on the field and I’m like, ‘Come on, let’s get this going, I want to get my first NFL play going,’ but it really was surreal being out there.”
Bauman said there were probably 20 to 30 friends and family at the game, and many more watching on TV. They all saw him get one step closer to making the roster, which is a long shot for most undrafted free agents. Add in the fact that Arizona is already fairly deep at running back with Andre Ellington, Stepfan Taylor and Jonathan Dwyer, it would seem Bauman is battling with Robert Hughes, Jalen Parmele and Damien Thigpen for one of the final spots on the team.
Standing in at just 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, Bauman’s style is different from other running backs both on the team and in the NFL, as most teams look for runners with more size. That’s not to say smaller backs have not made their mark on the league, but rather it would tend to indicate that his climb — already an uphill one because of not being drafted — may be a little steeper than normal.
But the most important thing, according to the former Lumberjack who became the first player in school history and ninth in NCAA FCS history to rush for 1,000 yards or more in each of his four seasons, is matching your game with your size.
“You’ve got to make people miss,” he said of what he personally must do. “My rule is the first person always misses. I’m short; we have 6-6 linemen, that’s real easy for me to hide behind.
“You’ve got to make people miss, you’ve got to be fast and you’ve just got to keep your legs churning. I already have the advantage — in football they say the low man wins. Well, I’m already there.”
However, Bauman is confident he is in a good situation with the Cardinals, saying his game is a perfect fit for what the team wants to do. While he doesn’t get as many reps as the team’s top running backs, he is getting some chances.
It’s up to him to make the most of them.
“I’m getting an opportunity, and just like in the game I got a couple carries, and you’ve got to take advantage of what you’re doing,” he said. “I feel like I’ve gone out there and had a pretty good performance, so I’ve got to continue doing that.”