Running backs are always underrated and run under the radar in the Chicago area. They usually have to prove themselves more than ball-carriers from other regions because the city and suburbs are known for producing linebackers and linemen, not running backs.
Despite the oversight, Chicago has produced a lot of outstanding running backs, including Michael Turner, Garrett Wolfe, Chris Brown, Mike Alstott, Howard Griffith, Walter Stanley, Dex Jones, Pierre Thomas, A.J. Johnson, Jamil Walker, Joe Montgomery and Cecil Martin.
Sure, the area also has produced some talented ball-carriers who were highly recruited, including Mike Burden, Rashard Mendenhall and Robert Hughes.
But Turner, Wolfe, Brown, Alstott, Griffith, Stanley, Thomas, Montgomery and Martin weren't listed on many college recruiting charts coming out of high school. But they got an opportunity, made the most of it, developed their skills and, in some cases, had outstanding careers in the NFL.
A pair of promising running backs to watch in the class of 2009 are Wheaton North's Mike Trumpy, who is headed to Northwestern, and Thornton's Greg Fuller, who is committed to Illinois.
The class of 2010 has some good prospects, too. It isn't deep but Nazareth's LaSteven McKinney, Rich Central's Giorgio Bowers, Bolingbrook's Jamel Martin, Maine South's Matt Perez, Mount Carmel's Milton Greer and Proviso East's Darnell Swanigan could emerge as difference-makers at the next level.
McKinney is undersized at 5-9 but is very productive. He averaged eight years per carry last season. He has big-time speed, strong legs and instincts.
Bowers, a 5-10, 215-pounder, doesn't have blazing speed but he has great size and leg strength. He should be a Division I player.
Martin, a 6-10, 200-pounder with 4.4 speed who was injured much of last season, comes from a school with a long and distinguished tradition of producing Division I running backs.
Perez, a running back who plays in a pass offense, can run, block and catch. He could be the best all-around back in the class. He has workable speed, average but not blazing.
Greer, who has been offered by Indiana, and Swanigan, who has 4.4 speed, also have the tools to be effective at the next level.