“I’m a football player,” he’ll correctly repeat.
Yet as the 2019 NFL Draft nears, it’s those type of athletic testing numbers that seem to be clouding the former FAU star who shattered all his school’s consequential rushing records. Now Singletary’s ready to prove what he brings to the game can’t be measured by a stopwatch.
“At the end of the day, we’re playing football,” Singletary said. “We’re not running 40s once we get in pads.”
And when the pads are on, he’s seemingly unstoppable.
Singletary burst onto the national scene as a sophomore when he led FBS in rushing touchdowns (32) and points scored. He followed that up with a dominant 2018 campaign, amassing 1,348 rushing yards and 22 scores.
Very few prospects’ statistical résumés even come close to Singletary’s. But his size and workout times have him behind the likes of Alabama’s Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris in most pre-draft rankings.
“He’s 5-7 1/2 and ran in the 4.6s, so that’s going to hurt him, obviously,” FAU coach Lane Kiffin said. “But then when you talk to everybody, they see what we all see – first guy never tackles him, unbelievable with the ball, great vision.”
Despite how explosive he looks on video, Singletary didn’t finish in the top-10 among running backs in the 40-yard dash (4.66), three-cone drill (7.32) or 20-yard shuttle (4.40) at February’s NFL Scouting Combine.
ESPN senior writer Todd McShay said Singletary, who he’s projecting as a third- or fourth-round draft pick, had “probably the most disappointing workout time” of the weekend. And while McShay downplayed the importance of top-end speed for running backs, he added “4.66 is tough to swallow.”
Singletary’s 40 time didn’t match what McShay saw on the field, however.
“He plays faster than a lot of other guys who ran in the 4.4s and 4.5s,” McShay said.
Testing numbers often have little correlation to game success, yet many scouts, analysts and fans cling to them year after year. They’re simple, quantifiable and help set a benchmark for comparing current prospects to past ones.
But they don’t tell the whole story.
Those numbers don’t represent Singletary’s innate ability to find holes in the defense, stop on a dime, jump cut and burst through them. Singletary said that’s a “big difference” from running in a straight line.
“Football speed, you got people chasing you, you got to get away,” Singletary said. “Now, it’s more of a competitive thing, as far as when someone’s chasing you. You got to let them know, ‘Oh, you can’t catch me.’”
Singletary’s video-game like stats show few defenders have, in fact, caught him. And that caught the eyes of the Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers – the teams Singletary said expressed the most interest in him during the pre-draft process.
But no matter which team selects Singletary, McShay expects the Deerfield Beach native to far exceed his draft position.
“I expect three, four years from now to look back and say, ‘You know what? This is a classic example of teams – and myself included – worrying too much about numbers and combine results and everything else, and forgetting about the tape as we get closer to the draft and further away from the season,” McShay said.
The NFL Draft starts Thursday at 8 p.m. Rounds two and three are on Friday, with the final four rounds coming on Saturday.
Singletary won’t be in Nashville for the festivities, though. He’ll instead be spending time with family and friends at home, where his legend started and is only beginning.
“My life is definitely about to change, and I’m ready for it, to be honest,” Singletary said. “All my hard work is about to pay off.”