Sutton shows off skill set in last action before combine

Matt Forman

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With the NFL Combine underway in Indianapolis, draft-eligible juniors and seniors are trying to make one last impression on NFL scouts. But before Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton headed east to display his talents, he went south to participate in the East-West Shrine Game.

After suffering a wrist injury in mid-October, Sutton returned for his final collegiate game at the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. The next time he took the field was at the University of Houston, where he lined up for the East squad as the starting tailback.

Sutton rushed 10 times for 37 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 2-yard rush to provide the 24-19 final margin.

“It went really well,” Sutton said after the game. “We had a six-player rotation going. The ground game is what did it. We had a lot of big plays from our running backs.”

Nebraska’s Marlon Lucky rushed for 68 yards on seven carries and a touchdown to lead the East, who rushed a combined 32 times for 179 yards and three scores.

While Sutton’s stats may not have been eye-popping, he displayed an ability to be shifty behind his blocks, get to the next level and run through intended tackles.

And Sutton showed a new ability that he hadn’t displayed while suiting up for the Wildcats. The 5-foot-9 star returned three kickoffs for an average of 27.3 yards per return.

“I think I showed that I’m versatile,” Sutton said. “I can do a lot of different things. I showed that I can do the things of a small back and of a big back.”

Sutton proved his dynamic dual-threat ability throughout the week of workouts leading up to the game. Each team practiced twice per day, and players mingled with scouts between sessions. It also presented players with the chance to meet fellow collegiate football players.

“The practices were great,” Sutton said. “You get around a lot of guys, and you get to learn a lot about them. All of the guys are extremely talented.”

Although the focus was on football, each player had the opportunity to visit Shriners Hospitals for Children, which su edu pports children with burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate.

“Going to the hospital was the best part,” Sutton said. ” The saying goes, strong people run so weak people can walk.”

Since then, Sutton has concentrated on training for the combine. Sutton was the only NU players to be invited and the first since Luis Castillo in 2005. Castillo was picked by the San Diego Chargers with the 28th pick of the first round.

Sutton is coming off his senior season, in which he rushed for 890 yards in eight games, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He also caught 35 passes for 305 yards.

According to ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, Sutton is ranked as the 24th best draft-eligible running back. Still, Sutton is projected to be picked in the fourth through seventh rounds.

Sutton said he has no expectations for the NFL Draft, which will take place in late April, but he will be happy with whatever result comes of it.

matthewforman2007@u.northwestern.

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