Austin Ekeler went undrafted out of Western State, Colorado, in 2017, ultimately signing with the Los Angeles Chargers. Since then, he’s become one of the top dual-threat running backs in the entire NFL.
After making peanuts for three years, Ekeler inked a four-year, $24.5 million contract with the Chargers on Friday, giving him his first major payday.
The running back told Peter King of NBC’s Football Morning in America that his reaction to the news from his agent Cameron Weiss that he would now be a multimillionaire was disbelief.
“Are you serious?” Ekeler said as he couldn’t stop laughing.
A pass-catching maven who proved last season while Melvin Gordon held out early in the year that he can plow roads down the center lane, Ekeler is the ideal modern-age back: A runner who can burrow in short-yardage, break one-arm tackles, beat any defender to the edge, and is a menace versus linebackers and safeties in coverage.
In 16 games in 2019, including eight starts, Ekeler compiled 557 rushing yards on 132 attempts with three touchdowns and added 92 receptions for 993 receiving yards with 8 pass-catching TDs.
Ekeler’s 1,550 scrimmage yards ranked ninth in the NFL last season and was eighth among running backs. He was a glaring Pro Bowl snub last year.
Now, he’s getting paid like the weapon he can be as the Chargers remake their offense.
Ekeler, however, told King that the money won’t change who he is moving forward.
“One of the things that’s crazy about the NFL is when I got to camp, I’m sitting in a room with guys who make $10 million a year. I see what everyone’s making, and I said, ‘Dang! That’s a lot of money!'” Ekeler said. “That’s why I’m laughing when Cameron tells me about the deal — it just didn’t seem real that I’d be making that money.
“You know how people say, ‘More money, more problems.’ I think money exemplifies your true character. It’s going to bring out the person I truly am. I live in the moment. The best chance you have to succeed is living in the moment — nothing matters except what you do to be better now. That’s who I am. That’s who I’ll continue to be.”
With Gordon hitting the free-agent market and likely move on, Ekeler is set to be the top back in L.A. as the Chargers move into their new stadium. He’s earned that payday. Now the jitterbug is ready to prove he’ll be worth it for years to come.