When Toby McBride stepped onto the field at Sports Authority Field in August, when the Colorado State Rams took on Colorado in the Rocky Mountain showdown, he surprised himself.
Coming out of 3A Fort Morgan High School, the 245-pound true freshman defensive lineman was not supposed to be on the field that night—or so he thought.
“Coming into the summer, I was kind of expecting to redshirt,” McBride said. “I was pretty small….so I was ready to redshirt and get some weight lifting in and bulk up a little bit. But through camp, (the coaches) told me I was going to play in the CU game. So no redshirt, I just had to get ready to do what I can do. I played a lot quicker than I thought I was going to.”
Stepping onto the field a lot sooner than he thought he would led to some nerves. Senior Jakob Buys, a fellow defensive lineman, said that he could tell McBride was nervous early on, especially before the CU game, but as the season went on, McBride relaxed and grew up.
And though McBride might not have seen himself contributing for the Rams as early as he did, it did not take long for his impact to become noticeable.
“He surprised me a whole lot,” Buys said of McBride’s 2016 season. “He is a great player even though he is undersized. What he did (last year) was miraculous.”
He never started a game last season, but McBride still led all of CSU’s defensive lineman in tackles (32), tackles-for-loss (7) and sacks (4.0). It was hard to imagine that the smallest lineman on the field was making arguably the biggest impact, but McBride continually stepped up and made plays for the young CSU defense last season.
“My family and the coaches here have always believed in me,” McBride said. “But (last year) was just about proving everybody else wrong, and that with the help of all the coaches here I can do a lot more than people thought I could do, or even what I thought I could do.”
As an undersized defensive lineman with shorter arms, it is not hard to see why McBride had some detractors. He may not have thought he was going to be on the field last season, but he also knew there were others who thought the exact same thing.
But before he could prove that he could play at this level, he had to overcome himself.
In high school, McBride was used to simply overpowering his opponents. Usually, he was one of the biggest players on the field. During fall camp last season, when he was going up against offensive lineman with 60-70 pounds on him, McBride learned that the power approach was not going to work anymore.
“Coach (Ricky) Logo just sat me down and said, ‘I know you were a power player in high school going against smaller guys and smaller schools, but you are the small guy now and you can’t really be doing that,’” McBride said. “So that just changed my whole outlook and I just had to be quicker and faster. It just changed everything that I had been used to.”
To best bigger opponents, McBride had to learn to combine his physicality with technicality. He has the strength, but he had to learn how to beat blockers with his hands and his quickness.
From last year’s impact, it is safe to say that Mcbride figured it out pretty quickly.
Now, with an unexpected year of experience under his belt, McBride can only progress.
“I don’t have to think about the plays as much,” McBride said about his growth coming into spring camp. “I can just line up, take a look at the offense and know what plays are gonna come my way instead of just really guessing.”
“He is growing a lot more,” Buys said. “His technique is getting a lot better. He has slowed the game down in his head and everything is not just a big blur. He has grown so much over the year, and last year really helped him. He is a great player now, and he’s gonna be a great player in the future too.”
Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at email@example.com and on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5