When Todd Gurley entered the NFL on draft night in 2015, it was an emotional experience. Not only did he have to prove doubters wrong who said that he hadn’t fully recovered from a knee injury suffered in his final year at Georgia, but that taking a running back with such a high pick was a fruitless endeavor. After all, no running back had been taken in the first round since 2012.
Then, when the St. Louis Rams handed in their card for the 10th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Gurley’s name was on it.
Thus began the journey that led the 21-year-old to be named the No. 1 player on the NFLPA’s “Rising 50” list for the 2016 season.
“It’s an absolute honor and I am humbled by the recognition,” Gurley said. “My rookie season was about staying healthy and contributing to the Rams, who took a risk by drafting me in the first round. To be included on this list… absolutely validates some of the goals that I had set out for myself when I entered the NFL.”
Gurley’s career skyrocketed right from the get-go and secured him a spot at the Pro Bowl game, as well as being named Offensive Rookie of the Year. Being named as the No. 1 rising marketing star on the annual list distributed by the NFLPA should only cement that Gurley is here to stay in the league.
The NFLPA 2016 “Rising 50” rankings are an objective analysis, taking into account on-field performances during the 2015 season. In addition, fantasy-league popularity, early demand from current sponsors and licensees, as well as new faces in strong markets, are the factors that go into creating the rankings. Last season, when the list was unveiled for the first time, Odell Beckham, Jr. was the No. 1-ranked player and quickly moved to the NFLPA’s Top 50 Sales List.
Between Gurley’s tremendous first season and the franchise’s move back to Los Angeles for the 2016 season, he was a natural choice for the top spot on the list.
“Los Angeles is a huge market with an incredible sports history and I’m thrilled to take part in the NFL’s return,” he said. “For me, I’m still the same guy that is going to work hard and do whatever I can to help the team win and give our fans something to be proud of.”
Gurley has used his megawatt smile and outgoing personality to turn his on-the-field production into business opportunities off of it. Through the 2015 NFLPA Rookie Premiere, Gurley also learned valuable tools to help him in business opportunities throughout his rookie season – which helped put him at the top of the “Rising 50” rankings.
“I learned a lot about financial planning, brand building and player rights,” Gurley said. “All important things that will continue to help me as I move forward in my career. I also learned the importance of forming relationships with potential brand partners, and to ask questions which allow me to understand the business behind these partnerships. It’s important to be in control of your brand.”
As Gurley continued a torrid rookie campaign which saw him rack up 1,106 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on just 229 carries in just 13 games, he saw more and more people around St. Louis sporting his jersey. Currently, his is the No. 3 selling jersey on NFLShop.com among running backs.
With the team moving to a new market in Los Angeles – one that has not had a NFL franchise since the Rams left for St. Louis after the 1994 season – Gurley is still awed by the support he receives from fans.
And is excited for the future.
“It’s really a moment every athlete dreams of – to see a fan sporting your jersey,” Gurley said. “I wore jerseys of my favorites growing up and to think that the fans in Los Angeles will be wearing my jersey – hopefully for years to come – is incredibly motivating.”