One year ago, prospective NFL running back Alfred Morris wasn't a household name. At best, he was a late-round draft pick, the type of player that fills roster depth and tries to make a living on special teams.
But Morris was lucky to be a late-round draft pick by Mike Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner into the Redskins' zone-blocking scheme.
The kind of 'lucky' that occurs at the intersection of Preparation and Opportunity.
Morris brought physicality to training camp and seized the opportunity to start. Over the next 16 games, he compiled the best single-season rushing performance in franchise history.
"Each game, he's gotten better. That's rare," offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said before the team's Wild Card game. "It's a long year, especially for a rookie, and he's never hit that wall. The guy doesn't seem to get too sore, either. He's always in practice as soon as we go on Wednesday – takes every rep.
"We make fun of him because he won't ever go walkthrough tempo either. He's always full-speed. We can't get him to slow down. He's always fresh and he's very fun to coach."
Given the well-documented success that Mike Shanahan and Bobby Turner have had with late-round backs, it isn't surprising to see Alfred Morris (sixth round, 173rd overall) have success.
In his 19 seasons as an NFL head coach, Shanahan has had a 1,000-yard back in 12 seasons, including an impressive 11-of-14 in Denver.
Those 11 seasons were divided between six running backs, of whom only two (Clinton Portis, Tatum Bell) were drafted before the fourth round.
In order to keep pressure off of Morris during the season, Shanahan refused to draw comparisons to his former players.
In an exclusive interview with Redskins.comTV after the season, Shanahan revealed that Morris compares favorably to another former sixth-rounder.
"[Morris] really is [a one-of-a-kind]. He's made of the right stuff," Shanahan said. "The closest guy is Terrell Davis; [he's] a lot like Alfred. So much charisma and just handles himself the right way in all situations.
"He's so productive and so professional and you know he'll be ready to go every year."
For his part, Alfred Morris doesn't want to be just another name on the long list of 1,000-yard backs that have played for Mike Shanahan. If he can help it, he will be the long-term answer at running back.
"In knowing Coach [Mike] Shanahan's history, I knew my first goal coming in was to make the team," Morris said. "They do a great job of finding great backs to fit their scheme. Not every running back can fit into a zone offense and be successful.
"I know they're going to make me a better back. I'm all in to what they want to do."