Georgia running back Nick Chubb was never supposed to make it to his senior season.
He looked NFL ready as a true freshman in 2014 with 1,547 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, showing raw power and lateral cuts that immediately put him on the radar as a top prospect. Even after suffering a major knee injury as a sophomore, he came back last season to rush for 1,130 yards.
With 535 college carries, he seemed poised to start earning a paycheck.
But he made the surprising decision to come back, ready to chase Herschel Walker's school rushing record and re-show the full promise of his freshman season.
"At the end of the season I thought I was running full speed, but it was hard to tell," Chubb said at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., on Tuesday. "Now and during the spring I feel a lot better."
NFLDraftScout.com rates Chubb as a fringe first-rounder, the No. 35 overall prospect heading into fall camp and the third-best running back behind Penn State's Saquon Barkley (No. 3) and LSU's Derrius Guice (No. 12).
"I know I'm working hard, pushing my body, trying to get better to where I once was, I guess," said Chubb, 5-foot-10 and 228 pounds. "We'll see come September. ... No matter what, I can't come back next year. Leave it all out there."
Chubb has a strong, compact frame and is known as a weight-room warrior, but second-year Georgia coach Kirby Smart said his strength staff is more concerned about preparing for football than putting up crazy lift numbers.
"Nick Chubb could probably put upward of 700, 800 pounds on his back and squat it," Smart said. "That might fire y'all up and might get a lot of hits on the internet, but it's not going to do one thing in winning a game."
Chubb's decision to come back to college was matched by senior running back Sony Michel, another draft prospect who rushed for 2,001 yards in the past two seasons. They give Smart one of the top running back tandems in the country.
Chubb has 3,424 career rushing yards, needing 1,836 yards to pass Walker. That would be a huge season, but it's not out of the question.
"I think Nick will tell you that he wasn't 100 percent last year, and he certainly has improved that," Smart said. "So with his ability to move up in the draft and create value for himself, he wanted to come back."