Oh, what could have been.
These days, Brandon Minor doesn’t let that kind of talk enter his head. The talented Michigan running back was cursed by a multitude of injuries throughout his career as a Wolverine.
“That type of stuff messes up your head,” Minor said at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. “Stuff happens for a reason. I just got to go with the cards that I was dealt with.”
Despite his injury history, Minor received an invite to the Combine even though he wasn’t healthy enough to perform in any of the drills. And after not being drafted in the 2010 NFL Draft, most likely due to those injuries, Minor signed as an undrafted free agent with the Chicago Bears.
The 6-0, 214-pound runner (who played at around 222 pounds when healthy) injured his left shoulder when Michigan scored its first touchdown against Purdue in 2009 and it bothered him enough to keep him from showcasing his talent, or even from finishing his senior year strong.
Minor had a season-high 154 yards on 19 carries in that game and scored three touchdowns. Even though he only missed three games his senior year, he was not 100-percent healthy and throughout his career, he had a laundry list of injuries to overcome.
He carried the ball just 96 times for 502 yards and eight touchdowns his senior year and finished with more than 1600 career yards rushing — a total that could have been much higher had he stayed healthy. His friend and fellow teammate Brandon Graham often ponders to himself what could’ve been.
“If Brandon Minor would had been playing with me this year, totally different,” Graham said at the Combine. “Just like I impacted the defense, he would’ve been the impact on offense. … When he saw a hole he would go get it. Nobody was really trying to get in his way, because he was a horse. It just happened like that and I know it hurt him more than anybody because we talked about this.
“We’ve been roommates all four years. And for him not being able to finish his last year playing, it was like, ‘dang man, all that went to waste.’ But it really didn’t because stuff happens for a reason. I just believe he’s going to bloom in the NFL.”
The Bears will get a physical runner who at times was Michigan’s entire offense, like in 2008 against Penn State when he led the Wolverines against the Nittany Lions and almost single-handedly kept Michigan in the game.
But he was alsooften ineffective when dealing with an injury. His style of running is physical in nature, which doesn’t exactly suit someone who’s not healthy.
“He had great games,” Graham said. “Just injuries hurt him. It just hurt because you dream of playing in all of these big games, and then you’re restrained by injuries and it just hurt.”
At the Combine, Chicago was one of the teams that spoke at length with Minor. Director of College Football Scouting for ESPN Scouts Inc., Todd McShay, saw on tape the potential that Minor had when he was healthy.
“When he’s healthy he’s a good player,” McShay said. “If he was healthy the whole time, I think he had an opportunity to be a mid-round pick … he has to prove he can stay healthy and maximize his physical tools. He’s a tough runner with some burst when he is at 100 percent.”
At Michigan, Minor was always surrounded by talented running backs. Carlos Brown, a fellow senior this past season, and former Heisman trophy finalist Mike Hart were a couple that Minor played with. But due to injuries and competition, he had just 331 career carries.
Minor said that he learned a lot as a young player playing with Hart, especially on how to block as a running back. Making that transition to the next level and fighting his way onto an NFL roster might be tough if Minor isn’t at full strength.
Brown, who wasn’t invited to the Combine, also went undrafted and signed with the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints as a free agent. He, too, struggled with injuries his whole career.
As for Minor, though his ability is there when he’s on the field, it’s changes to his game that could help him stick around.
“I just have to improve on technique when I get to the League,” Minor said. “Because as big and as fast and strong as I am, I can’t get away on all strength or speed. I just got to use technique to be fundamentally sound.”
Minor won’t soon lose his mentality of running people over, and that’s why, despite the injuries, he still has a shot at playing in the League.
“I mean I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m getting looked at,” Minor said. “In the NFL, running backs are all about, all tough runners going downhill. And that’s what I’m all about.”