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Former UM running back Karan Higdon on being at the NFL Combine Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News

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Indianapolis — Former Michigan running back Karan Higdon grew up in Sarasota, Fla., where he began playing football as a 5-year-old. The goal each and every year, even from that young age, was to make it to the NFL.

Higdon is now on the brink of realizing that dream, and the first step came when he received his invitation to this week’s NFL Combine.

“I shook my head like, ‘This is surreal. It’s incredible,” Higdon said Thursday at the Indianapolis Convention Center not long before he bench pressed 21 reps. He will work out for NFL scouts with the other running backs on Friday. “It’s been a blessing. It’s a great opportunity to get out here and continue to showcase my skill set.”

While the invite felt surreal, arriving in Indianapolis brought him back to reality.

“It really hit me when I started unpacking my bags and all the Under Armour gear — trying this stuff on, I teared up, like, ‘Wow, this is really a dream come true. I’ve been working like this since I was 5 years old, and it’s finally here.,' he said. "It’s a pure blessing and a long time coming.”

The 5-foot-9 Higdon weighed in at 206 pounds. He has been training in Miami eight hours a day at Pete Bommarito’s Bommarito Performance Systems and had a chance gym encounter with the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera while in south Florida.

“He’s a pure legend. One of the top three, top two baseball players in the world,” Higdon said. “Just seeing how he works and how he moves and what he does to stay at that high caliber level is incredible. It makes me that much more hungry.”

Higdon is projected as a mid- to late-round selection. He was asked why he should be drafted.

“I think I’m a special talent,” he said. “I think I showcased that this past year. I continued to progress each and every year I’ve been at the University of Michigan and I just showed results. I got great vision, speed, power, determination, versatility. I’m ready to compete.”

He has met with every NFL team, he said, and said the interview process has been smooth because he doesn’t have “any baggage.”

Some have, however, asked about his decision not to play in the Peach Bowl. Higdon participated in the Senior Bowl last month.

“It definitely was a tough decision to sit out and not finish the last game with my teammates was hard,” Higdon said. “But once I got their blessing and respect, that’s all I needed. I met with them, we spoke in the locker room. Some guys called me, and we texted. We had an open discussion about it. It was a great decision.

“A couple teams have asked me and I’ve been honest. I told them it was a tough decision, a family decision, a coach’s decision. Ultimately, I thought it was best for me to start preparing for this process.”

He said he had “pushback” from Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh regarding his decision, but eventually, he understood. Higdon also said he knows there are some who questioned his decision to skip the bowl game because he was a captain. Linebacker Devin Bush, another co-captain, also skipped the bowl and is here for the combine.

“Being a captain, you have a different responsibility,” Higdon said. “But once I got the blessing of my teammates, that’s all that mattered. No one else really mattered other than my teammates and my coaches and my family. No one else is out there playing with me or for me, so their opinions didn’t really matter.”

Higdon will watch the draft with his family in Sarasota. He said he has no preference regarding future employer. He just wants to play in the NFL.

“I want them to know I’m a competitor,” he said of NFL teams. “Everything on the tape they see is real. I can be an every-down back in the National Football League. I can run fast, lift heavy and do all things asked of me. I’m down for whatever the team needs. Whatever the team needs I’m willing to do, whether it’s special teams, every-down back, scat back, whatever they need, I’m down to do.”

Love for Detroit

Former Ohio State running back Mike Weber grew up in Detroit and attended Cass Tech.  He had nothing but praise for his hometown.

“It’s hard to explain,” Weber said Thursday. “It’s gritty. It’s a lot of people there that are dedicated and driven to become better people. It’s an up and coming city that I’m really proud to be a part of and proud to say I’m from there. Every chance I get, I get back to that city.

“Growing up in Detroit played a big part in how I play.”

Lose-lose situation

Higdon said he couldn’t win when asked the Monday of Ohio State week about guaranteeing a win. The next day, Harbaugh related his anger during the Big Ten conference call.

“He was upset (about the question),” Higdon said of Harbaugh. “It was a lose-lose situation either way I would have answered it. I’m confident in my team. If I had to go back, I’d do the same thing.”

Higdon said he didn’t feel like he had made a guarantee.

“But that’s how he it was going to be taken,” he said. “If I didn’t say it, then it would have been taken I wasn’t confident in the team or my team. It was a lose-lose situation.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis

 

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