LaDarius Vanlier has never allowed his small stature keep him from dreaming big.
He met or exceeded most of the monster goals he set as a star running back at Maplewood and did the same at Tennessee Tech.
Now he sees himself doing the same in the NFL and hopes what he’s accomplished so far in his career is enough to convince a team to give him a chance either as a draft pick on April 28-30 or as a free agent.
“With my explosiveness, big-play ability, vision, speed, endurance and durability I feel like I bring a lot of things some guys just don’t have,” Vanlier said. “I’m a great teammate, I’m very enthusiastic and I have a great work ethic. I’m never going to let a guy outwork me.”
The 5-foot-7 dynamo put all those attributes on display for NFL scouts when he participated in the Tennessee Vols Pro Day last month and received a glowing review — “Meet Ladarius Vanlier; One Of The Most Explosive Players In The Draft” — earlier this week by Andrew Baldinger with NFL Draft Diamonds.
“It may not be worth a draft pick in the eyes of a front office, but how could anyone deny (Vanlier’s) tape, accolades, and most importantly, speed?” Baldinger wrote. “Regardless, the kid definitely deserves a spot in training camp because there is tremendous upside with bringing him on board.”
Baldinger called Vanlier a “carbon copy” of 5-8 New York Jets running back Dri Archer, one of the fastest players in the NFL who has been clocked at 4.26 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Vanlier said he posted a 4.33 in the 40 at the Vols Pro Day and wasn’t happy with that.
“In training I had been running high 4.2s, low 4.3s pretty consistently,” Vanlier said. “So I wasn’t really satisfied. A couple of the scouts had me in the 4.2s, but my official time was 4.33. But it was a blessing and I was grateful to the UT coaching staff for letting me work out with them.”
Vanlier led the Ohio Valley Conference in all-purpose yards (147.5 per game) last season and finished second in Tech history with 5,392. He scored 18 touchdowns in his career.
In his final game Vanlier rushed for 132 yards on just 13 carries and scored two TDs in a 30-24 win over Tennessee State. He also had a 48-yard punt return.
“You can be fast and strong, but both of those traits will only get you so far,” Baldinger wrote. “Vanlier has a very rare combination of speed and vision.”
Because of his lack of size, Vanlier has dealt with being snubbed throughout his career. Tech was one of the few schools that offered him a full scholarship.
He hopes it doesn’t happen again with the NFL.
“In high school I was a Mr. Football (Class 2A) finalist and one of the best running backs in the state, but I was overlooked by all the big schools because of my size,” Vanlier said. “That’s why I ended up at Tennessee Tech. But I thank God and (former Tech coach) Watson Brown for giving me a chance to show what I can do. Now we’ll see if that’s enough to get me to the next level.”
Local players work out for Titans
Five college players with local ties worked out for the Titans Friday.
Former Goodpasture quarterback Keenan Reynolds, now at Navy, Vanderbilt defensive end Caleb Azubike from McGavock, Tennessee Tech running back Radir Annoor, who played at Brentwood Academy, and cornerback DeMario Donnell, who played at Pearl-Cohn, joined TSU offensive lineman Shaq Anthony in the workout.
Reynolds, who rushed for 4,559 yards and 88 TDs while passing for 4,001 yards in his career, finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting this past season. He is being looked at as a quarterback, running back or special teams player by NFL teams.
Azubike was plagued by injuries throughout his career, but was one of the top performers at Vanderbilt’s Pro Day, jumping 34 inches in the vertical jump and 10 feet in the long jump.
Annoor played in 37 games and rushed for a total of 551 yards in his career at Tech. Donnell started in the first three games this season before suffering an injury, which limited his play for the remainder of the season.
Anthony, a transfer from Clemson, was hampered throughout the season with a knee injury, but was able to perform at TSU’s Pro Day last week and said his knee was fully healed.
Halas’ grandson to speak at Wade memorial
Pat McCaskey, the grandson of legendary Chicago Bears owner and coach George Halas, will speak at Bill Wade’s memorial service on April 30.
Wade, a former Montgomery Bell Academy and Vanderbilt quarterback who led the Bears to the 1963 NFL Championship, died on March 10.
Visitation will be from 5-7 p.m. on April 29 and the service the following day at 11 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church.
McCaskey is a Bears owner, board member and senior director of special projects.
Vols No. 25 in all-sports standings
Tennessee is ranked 25th in the Learfield Directors’ Cup All Sports Division I Winter Standings.
The Learfield Directors’ Cup is awarded annually to the nation’s best overall collegiate athletics program. Stanford is No. 1.
Middle Tennessee State is 87th, Western Kentucky 106th, Vanderbilt 108th, TSU 168th and Belmont 170th while Austin Peay and Lipscomb are tied with 34 other schools at 208th. Tennessee Tech is not included in the ranking.
Metro Hall of Fame inductions are Tuesday
The Metro Nashville Public Schools Sports Hall of Fame will induct one of its most impressive classes ever on Tuesday at Nissan Stadium.
The class includes Richard Fulton, an East High football all-state lineman who went on to serve three terms as the mayor of Nashville.
Also in the class is Pearl High great Les Hunter, who went on to play in the NBA, longtime Metro football coach Herschel Moore, Stratford boys basketball star Ray Maddux, who went on to play at Vanderbilt, and girls star Brenda Thompson, who went on to play at Oral Roberts.
Being inducted posthumously will be Vic Rouse, a member of the Pearl team that won 54 consecutive games. He went on to make one of the most memorable shots in college basketball history, which lifted Loyola (Chicago) to the 1963 national championship.
Vandy snapper signed by Oakland
Former Vanderbilt long snapper Andrew East signed a free agent contract with the Oakland Raiders earlier this week.
East, who snapped in all 51 games of his career at Vanderbilt, originally signed with Kansas City as an undrafted free agent last May. At the end of the 2015 season he signed with Seattle as a reserve/future free agent before being waived in March.
Glencliff’s Grinter calls Final Four game
Former Glencliff High basketball standout Felicia Grinter was an official for the Connecticut-Oregon State Women’s Final Four game.
Grinter, who also played volleyball at Glencliff (1984-87), later played basketball at Volunteer State Community College.
In 2012 she was the only American selected to officiate in the London Olympics.
Ex-TSU linebacker joins Samford staff
Former TSU linebacker Wil Robinson was hired Wednesday as the defensive quality control/linebackers assistant coach at Samford.
The Birmingham, Ala., native was a four-year starter (2010-2013) at TSU who recorded 111 tackles and had two interceptions in his career.
Basketball referee from Clarksville dies
Local basketball official Josh Artis died Thursday after battling an aggressive form of cancer. He was 29.
Artis was a great high school player at Fort Campbell and Hopkinsville, Ky., who went on to play at Kentucky Wesleyan.
He transferred to Austin Peay and graduated. He then remained in Clarksville, went to work at Clarksville Athletic Club and became an NCAA Division I and TSSAA certified referee.
National softball draft in Nashville Thursday
The 2016 National Pro Fastpitch Draft will be at the theater in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Thursday beginning at 7 p.m.
The nation’s top college softball players will be selected by six different women’s pro teams.
The six-round draft will be broadcast live on the CBS Sports Network.
There will be refreshments, live entertainment, an autograph session and prizes. For tickets visit profastpitch.com.
Ex-Brentwood Academy star is at Louisiana Tech
Former Brentwood Academy standout Maren Kreid is a redshirt freshman guard on the Louisiana Tech basketball team where Tyler Summitt resigned as coach Thursday after admitting to having an inappropriate relationship.
The Franklin native is a walk-on who played in four games this past season. She also is a goalie on the Lady Techster soccer team.
Tennessee Tech coach is on top 30 list
Tennessee Tech men’s basketball assistant Frank Davis was named one of the nation’s top 30 assistant coaches under 30 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
“It’s definitely a great honor and something I’m proud of,” Davis said.
The Gainesville, Fla., native, who scored 1,118 career points at Tech (2007-2010), just finished his fourth season on the coaching staff.
Portland running back great Glover dies
Glenn Glover, one of the state’s greatest high school running backs, died on April 2. He was 83.
Glover played at Portland where he made the high school team as a seventh-grader and became a starter in the eighth.
He rushed for more than 6,500 yards and scored 90 TDs in his career while leading the Panthers to their first postseason appearance in the 1951 Crimson Bowl. He rushed for 382 yards and four TDs in a game against Murfreesboro during his senior season in 1952.
Glover went on to play at Tennessee Tech.
He was part of the inaugural class inducted into the Portland High Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015.
If you have an item for Midstate Chatter contact Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.
SPORTS ON NASHVILLE TV
The top 5 local sporting events television ratings for March 28-April 3.
1. NCAA Men’s Final 4: North Carolina-Syracuse 10.2 rating
2. NCAA Men’s Final 4: Villanova-Oklahoma 7.4 rating
3. NASCAR: Martisnville 500 3.4 rating
4. NCAA Women’s Final 4: Connecticut-Oregon St. 2.7 rating
5. NBA: Celtics-Warriors 2.4 rating
Each rating point is equal to 9,902 TV Nashville homes.
SEC Network ratings not available.
Source: Mark Binda, WTVF-5 programming & research director