Dri Archer eyes Combine 40-yard dash record

Ready to run, Kent State's Dri Archer wants to make an impression at the NFL Combine.

Crystal LoGiudice

As second chances go, Dri Archer is one-for-one.

There’s plenty at stake as he officially begins his quest to make that two-for-two.

Archer put himself on the NFL radar with a big season at Kent State in 2012, a year after an administrative academic issue kept him on the sideline. He spent as much as time on the sideline nursing leg and ankle injuries last fall as he did on the field, making this week’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis an important proving ground for Archer as he looks not just to avoid becoming a forgotten man in NFL circles, but to make a solid impression heading into stretch run of the pre-draft process.

He’d like it to be a lasting one, too. Archer wants to set the Combine record for fastest 40-yard dash.

"Yes sir — Chris Johnson ran 4.24 in 2008," Archer said in a telephone interview. "That’s what I’ve been looking at, what I’ve been training for. It’s definitely in my goals, and I think it can be done."

He’s been training for the combine in Florida with renowned speed coach Tom Shaw since early January, and Archer — listed at 5’8, 175 by Kent State — said he’ll fly to Indianapolis this week "the healthiest I’ve been in four or five years." He said he’s eager to participate not just in drills but to meet with teams and tell them he’d like to be their kickoff returner as early as September.

"I’ve been working my butt off down here, and I’ve learned a lot, too," Archer said. "I’m in a good spot mentally. I’m hungry. I can play running back, I can play wide receiver. I’ve learned a lot about running routes, (worked on) catching the ball better. I just think I’m a better player than I’ve ever been and I want to show that.

"Getting to go to the Combine, that’s a blessing. I just want to show how fast I am and how I can help a team as a football player."

Archer said when he meets with coaches and scouts in Indianapolis and is asked what position he feels is his best, he’ll tell them "offensive weapon."

He has the film to back up his claim, though his best work was done in his junior season.

Injuries limited Archer last fall. He didn’t play in a full game until mid-October and never got more than 15 total touches in a game until the season finale. He scored 11 total touchdowns, 15 fewer than he got during his record-setting junior season, when he averaged an eye-popping 9 yards per carry and earned All-American honors as a kick returner from multiple outlets.

After he returned three kickoffs for touchdowns as a junior, opponents played it safe when Archer was in the lineup last fall. He had just two kickoff returns on the season, returning the first 100 yards for a touchdown.

Archer had an NFL decision to make last January – keeping him in school for his senior year became a recruiting priority for then-new Kent State coach Paul Haynes. After plenty of discussion and an evaluation from the NFL’s underclass advisory committee, Archer decided to return.

He graduated last December, and though very little about the 2013 season went as planned individually or for his team, Archer said there’s no lingering disappointment.

"It was unfortunate…but stuff happens," he said. "I (go to the NFL) with a lot to prove to a lot of people, but it’s always been that way. Unfortunately, I had a bad season. But I’ve moved forward. My focus is on having a good season in 2014 in the NFL.

"No disappointment, no looking back. I made my decision last January and I stuck with it. I love Kent State. Now, I’m all about making the most of my chance in the NFL."

Archer will run on Sunday morning inside Lucas Oil Stadium when the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers work out. He’s not predicting that he will break Johnson’s record, but he thinks that he might.

"Everyone is going to see it," Archer said. "And hopefully (next week), everybody will talking about it."