You would think it would be a little frustrating for C.J. Spiller.
Unlike most high first-round draft picks, Spiller could barely get on the field as a rookie. The former Clemson star got just 74 carries during his first pro season in 2o1o, buried behind entrnched starter Fred Jackson.
Rather than sulking, Spiller worked his tail off to improve and looked very good during the 2011 preseason. His reward? Even fewer carries during the first half of the 2011 campaign, due to Jackson having an MVP-type season. At one point, Spiller wasn’t even really a running back, getting shuffled out to wide receiver.
We all know what happened next: Jackson got hurt, and Spiller finally got his big chance over the final six games of the season. And he delivered in a big way, showing the moves, speed, and big-play ability that made him a first-round choice in the first place.
And how did the Bills respond to Spiller’s promising show? By giving Jackson a contract extension, knocking Spiller back to the second string.
A lot of guys would be openly complaining and demanding the starter role if they were in Spiller’s shoes. C.J.? He’s thrilled to have his mentor back:
“[Jackson's] a great guy. Like I tell people all the time, you don’t find too many guys to take you under their wing once you get here, especially when somebody gets drafted at your position,” said Spiller. “We’re both competitive. We go out there and compete. We push each other. But at the end of the day he’s like a big brother to me. I try to take as much of his game to apply it to mine, especially in the pass protecting and running how he approaches each games. That’s what I kind of tried to do when he went down.”
Jackson has also made his fondness for Spiller known in numerous interviews over the past two years. In an interview earlier this week, Jackson talked about how good it was for Spiller to finally get a chance late last season:
“I’ve always thought the more touches you get as a running back the better you get. To get that experience definitely was something that I think [Spiller] needed. It was something that helped him grow as a running back. We got to see his potential. For me not to be there allowed him to go in there and take some reps and develop his game a little bit more.”
It seems like a small thing, but if Jackson had decided to be a jerk to this rookie trying to take his job, or if C.J. Spiller had come in with an arrogant attiutude, it really could have a negative impact on the locker room. This is the type of thing that divides a team. Instead, the Bills have one of the league’s better locker rooms.