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Toby Gerhart Is White, and That's Alright

A rather large furor was caused after the revelation that, leading up to the NFL Draft, Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland had asked WR Dez Bryant if his mother had worked as a prostitute during his youth.  Bryant was put off by the question, and quite understandably so. . .after all, had anybody asked you if your mother spent your youth turning tricks, you'd probably be a but perturbed by the whole thing, too.

But a recent article from the St. Paul Pioneer Press brings up another case of a guy getting grilled over something silly in the days leading up to the draft, that person being Toby Gerhart, one of the Vikings' two second-round selections in this year's annual selection meeting.  Gerhart was asked numerous times by teams if he was going to be playing tailback in the NFL. . .after all, there aren't currently any white starting tailbacks in the National Football League, and the Vikings already have the best back in the game in Adrian Peterson, so they obviously drafted Gerhart to block, right?  Isn't that what white running backs in the NFL do?

Honestly, I can't roll my eyes back in my head any farther without having a blood vessel explode.

Why on earth would the Minnesota Vikings. . .or anybody else. . .draft somebody with Toby Gerhart's obvious physical talent to play fullback?  The man runs the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, he has a 38-inch vertical leap, and he should have won the Heisman Trophy last season after putting up over 1,800 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns.  Does that sound like an NFL blocking back to you?

Really, at this point in time, shouldn't we be past junk like this?  Yes, there aren't a whole lot of white running backs in the National Football League.  The black quarterback used to be stigmatized for a long time, too. . .if you don't believe me, you can just ask Warren Moon.  But why on earth, in this day and age of America having elected a black President, of the Supreme Court being comprised of whites, blacks, and now its first ever Latina, do people feel the need to attempt to pigeonhole Toby Gerhart as a "white running back?"  He might be a bit of an anomaly, sure, but the guy has physical skills that rival many running backs in today's NFL, regardless of their skin color.

Unfortunately, players like Gerhart are not going to be compared to their peers at the position, simply on the basis of skin color.  Another player got some similar treatment in the weeks leading up to the draft, that being Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley, eventually drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals.  On every draft preview show and in every draft magazine, do you know who Shipley. . .who put up amazing numbers at Texas, was compared to?  Go on. . .take a guess.

If you said "Wes Welker," you're correct.  Why?  Well, it's not because their games are similar, because they're nowhere close to the same type of receiver.  Welker is an amazing slot receiver, making quick cuts and amassing a ton of yards after the catch.  Shipley, on the other hand, is a bit more of a possession guy, not nearly as fast or as quick as Welker.

No, the Shipley/Welker comparisons were inevitable because both players have, as it were, the "white" stuff.  Just like there aren't a lot of white running back in the NFL, and hence people are hesitant to compare Gerhart to other players at the position, there aren't terribly many wide receivers at this level, either.  Hence, people have the tendency to simply compare guys like Gerhart and Shipley to the first white guys that cross their minds, no matter how inaccurate those comparisons may be.

Toby Gerhart's lack of pigmentation does not automatically mean that he's a fullback.  He's a 253-pound bowling ball covered with knives that has shown a powerful running style, enough moves to make people miss, and amazing productivity as a college running back.  And hopefully he'll be able to get past the stereotype of the "white running back" to have a good enough career that, in the future, people will be able to compare numerous different running backs to him. . .regardless of their skin color.