The day Dri raced the pizza man

KENT, Ohio – Life has changed for Dri Archer.

A year ago, he was just a guy on the football team at Kent State — and, really, a little guy who hadn’t played in a year. He didn’t exactly stand out.

Then last season came, and Archer started running past just about everybody. He scored 24 total touchdowns, built a jaw-dropping personal highlight reel and became the face of a team that, like its new star, came out of basically nowhere to win 11 games. Archer made All-American teams and flirted with the NFL before deciding to return for his senior season.

Now, Archer has a school-driven Heisman campaign and a growing unofficial fan club. He gets recognized in public and is the go-to guy for media. He said he’s handling his newfound fame well.

“The first time it happened, I was eating in Buffalo Wild Wings with a couple friends,” Archer said. “A kid came up and asked if he could get his picture with me. He was super nervous and I kind of was, too.

“I’m getting used to it now. I like it. Being some sort of role model, that’s a pretty big deal.”

But here’s the best story. One day Archer said he was out in Kent’s downtown area on a casual stroll, looking for some lunch but in no real hurry to get anywhere in particular. He said he was kind of daydreaming when he thought he heard someone call his name.

Suddenly a pizza shop employee — Archer presumed him to be on the clock — came out and told Archer that he knew he was fast but wasn’t sure how fast. Right there in the daylight on a downtown street, he proposed they find out who was faster.

Archer chuckled, sure that the guy was joking. He wasn’t.

“He was just a regular-looking guy; had on a t-shirt and shorts and not even running shoes,” Archer said.

To repeat: Some guy working in a pizza shop recognized Dri Archer, called him by his name and challenged one of the fastest college football players in the country to a race.

Archer obliged. Because the NCAA has been known to dispatch its no-fun police for lesser, he didn’t share many more details.

But Dri Archer ate pizza for lunch that day.

And made one more believer in the city of Kent.

“People know me now,” Archer said. “That part of it is fun. And I’m hoping a lot more people know my name here soon.”