Running Back Elijah Hood
On the Day Three of 2017 NFL Draft, University of North Carolina running back Elijah Hood gathered his friends and family at his uncle's gym in Charlotte for what he hoped would be the most important day of his professional life.
Hood was confident that by evening's end he would be selected by one of the league's 32 teams to officially begin his NFL career, but he was secretly hoping against hope that one team in particular would be on the other end of the phone when he finally got that fateful call.
"Honestly, if I had to pick a team I wanted to go to, it was the Oakland Raiders," said Hood. "That's honestly why I was so emotional. I was praying to God that I got sent to this team, and it happened. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't have asked for a better place to be…I'm just so happy. I don't even know how to describe it. They were on my list of teams that I knew were interested for sure, but for them to actually get me was a whole [different] thing."
Hood, who finished his career at North Carolina with over 2,500 yards, and 29 rushing touchdowns, had kept a watchful eye on the NFL landscape in recent months, and for the powerful running back, one thing in particular stood out when he broke down the Silver and Black.
The offensive line.
"They have a very strong offensive line," Hood explained. "As a running back, that's one of the things I pay attention to most, is who's going to be blocking in front of me. The guys they have here are terrific."
Complete with three Pro Bowlers, the Raiders boasted one of the best statistical offensive lines in the NFL in 2016, and paired with the bevvy of weapons at quarterback Derek Carr's disposal, Hood was becoming enamored with the idea of one day putting on a Raiders uniform.
"Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree, and those guys, they do so much, putting pressure on the secondary that they can't focus so much on stuffing the box, and crowding it, and playing low," Hood continued.
The former Tar Heel was already having dreams of Silver and Black dancing in his head, but then those aspirations went to the next level April 26 when the Raiders coaxed veteran running back Marshawn Lynch out of retirement and acquired him from the Seattle Seahawks.
Growing up in Charlotte and watching the NFL on Sundays, Lynch was one of the running backs Hood modeled his game after as a kid, and that fondness for "Beast Mode" has remained strong into adulthood.
The rookie running back describes his style of running as many describe Lynch's; tough, physical, tone-setting, and the similarities don't stop there as Hood is quick to note that both men share not only a style of running, but a birthday as well.
"Honestly, that's one of my childhood heroes, watching him [Lynch] play football as a kid, growing up, he has a running style that I try to embody, and watching his interviews, and literally the way he describes how he wants to run the ball, is how I think about it," Hood said. "It's just an honor to share a room with him, to practice with a guy that growing up, watching him play, you kind of desire to be like."
Hood and the rest of the Raiders rookies begin their three-day rookie mini-camp today at the team's Alameda, Calif., facility, and with veterans not eligible to participate, the newest addition to the running back corps hasn't yet had a chance to meet his childhood idol.
Hood isn't quite sure how he'll handle the meeting, but he did know one thing for sure, he's going to have something special on his person when it does happen.
With a big smile he said, "I hope I have a bag of Skittles on me."