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On Thursday night, the Patriots opened the 2018 preseason with a comeback win over Washington, 26-17. Spearheading the second-half effort was undrafted rookie running back Ralph Webb.
Webb, decidedly less heralded than first round pick Sony Michel, made the most of his opportunity. He scored a pair of touchdowns and converted the subsequent two-point conversions.
It was exactly the kind of debut a player on the periphery needs in order to help make a case to survive the roster eventual cut.
And while Webb still has a long way to go before he could potentially be in contention to make the regular season roster, his play on Thursday was an athletic step in the right direction.
Ultimately, he decided against moving to New England (and playing in the ACC) in favor of the SEC. Webb committed to Vanderbilt two days after a Feb. 1 visit.
Webb won the starting job as a redshirt freshman in 2014 at Vanderbilt, rushing for 912 yards and four touchdowns.
Though the Commodores struggled as a team, Webb thrived in the difficult environment of the SEC. As a sophomore, he had 1,340 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns.
His defining attribute, as Vanderbilt reporter Christian D’Andrea would later explain, was his “ability to churn low-percentage carries into first downs.”
This peaked in his junior year, when Webb averaged 5.1 yards-per rush and piled up 1,449 yards from scrimmage and 13 scores.
“I think I’m the best running back in the nation,” Webb said at SEC media in 2017. He finished his college career sixth all-time in SEC rushing history (Michel is 16th on the list), and atop most rushing rankings in Vanderbilt history.
Webb grew up in Gainesville, home of the Florida Gators. He wanted to play for Florida, but despite compiling over 2,000 yards and 28 touchdowns en route to being named All-State as a high school senior, his hometown school made no scholarship offer.
“I wanted to go to Florida, but it didn’t go my way,” Webb said in 2016. “That’s OK. I’ve used that as motivation and as a chip on my shoulder. I’ve always used that to give me a little edge.”
As a track and field star at Gainesville High School, Webb as especially talented in the long jump.
After winning the 3A State Championship in long jump as a junior, Webb accomplished the rare feat of repeating in his senior year. His distance as a senior was 23-04.50.
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