KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Wide receiver Tyreek Hill admits he didn't know much about running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire when the Chiefs used a first-round draft pick on the LSU star last month.
So, what was Hill's initial reaction after doing some quick research on his new teammate?
"I looked at his highlights and I was like, 'Dang, this dude is short, but he's good, he's cold,' " Hill said during a recent video call. "I think he's definitely going to be like a Darren Sproles-type back … (a) scatback who can catch the ball out of the backfield, get those scrimmage yards when you need them."
That the 5-foot-8, 207-pound Edwards-Helaire drew a comparison to the 5-foot-6, 190-pound Sproles, who enjoyed an accomplished 15-year NFL career on the heels of a record-setting collegiate career at Kansas State and high school stardom at Olathe North, shouldn't come as a surprise.
They're similar in stature, of course, and Edwards-Helaire arguably possesses like skills as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. And if observers see Edwards-Helaire perform the sort of moves that Sproles did in the NFL, well, there's a good explanation for that, too.
The Chiefs rookie said during a Friday call that he started watching highlights of Sproles, among other running backs, in middle school and incorporated some of those moves into his own natural elusiveness and athleticism.
"I was able to implement everything that I was watching from not just only him, but still watching Kevin Faulk's film, still watching Marshall Faulk's film, still watching Barry Sanders' film," Edwards-Helaire said. "I had a whole cassette of Barry Sanders tape. I was watching all these guys that I felt like were similar to the way that I feel like I was running at the time, and everything just kind of came into play."
The process clearly worked out well for Edwards-Helaire on his path to the NFL.
In 2019, he rushed for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns on 215 carries, averaging 6.6 yards per carry, while adding 453 yards and a touchdown on 55 catches to help LSU win a national championship.
He also showed he could perform as a kickoff returner, a role in which Sproles thrived at K-State and throughout his NFL career, which concluded with his December 2019 retirement. In three collegiate seasons, Edwards-Helaire totaled 40 kickoff returns for 877 yards, averaging 21.9 yards per attempt.
The rookie running back also revealed Friday that he currently enjoys a close relationship with Sproles. The two even have each other's personal cell numbers.
"As soon as I was drafted, I got a text from him," Edwards-Helaire said. "He was like, 'My hometown, be ready,' and if I need anything, just let him know."
There are lofty expectations awaiting Edwards-Helaire in Kansas City, and comparisons to Sproles are likely to continue. Locals won't soon forget what Sproles did throughout his playing career in college, including energizing a K-State victory over Oklahoma in the 2003 Big 12 Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium.
But in order to show he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as one of the NFL's all-time best all-purpose running backs, the rookie rusher must first get acclimated to the professional level.
That will start with impressing his Chiefs position coach.
"Until I get him on the field at this level and we start doing the things we're asking him to do at this level, I don't think that's a fair comparison until Clyde actually puts his cleats on, puts a Chiefs uniform on and goes out there and starts balling, which I expect him to do," Chiefs running backs coach Deland McCullough said. "Then, we'll go from there."