Todd Gurley had quite the year. While still recovering from an ACL tear he suffered at Georgia in Nov. 2014, the explosive, insanely talented running back was drafted No. 10 by the St. Louis Rams. He made his much-anticipated debut in Week 4, and shredded the Cardinals’ defense for 146 rushing yards. That effort was followed up by Gurley eclipsing 125 rushing yards in three consecutive games, and he finished the year as the third-ever Rams rookie running back to top 1,000 yards. At just 21, Gurley is already the face of the Rams, a franchise that will make its return to Los Angeles this season.
Gurley was in the City of Angels this week speaking on behalf of Call of Duty: Black Ops III DLC, which is being released to the public on Tuesday. We chatted about the game, but also about a possible running back revival in the NFL, player safety issues and who the Rams might select in next week’s draft.
Melissa Jacobs: I have to be honest. I know very little about Call of Duty and don’t think it’s a good idea to fake it.
Todd Gurley: You don’t know about Call of Duty?
MJ: I’m sorry. Tell me about it. Convert me.
TG: It’s all good. So the Call of Duty game that’s coming out on PS4 is the new Eclipse DLC. The objective of the game is to sit there and create a class however you want and you kill people. You can kill for fun or go hard core, regular core. It’s really cool, actually. You should go get it.
MJ: Maybe. So what do you like best about the game?
TG: It’s just fun and something I’ve been playing since high school. Now my teammates and I bond over it.
MJ: Who’s the best on your team?
TG: We actually have a Call of Duty Rams group. I know people might think we’re big kids for that but have fun. I think Benny Cunningham or Michael Brockers are the best.
MJ: You’re in L.A. for this promotion and obviously will be spending a lot more time there. What was your reaction when you heard the Rams were officially moving?
TG: It was pretty cool. It was weird the idea of taking a franchise and moving it from the midwest to the West Coast, probably more weird for the guys who have been here four or five years than for me. But it’s very exciting. I can’t wait to get used to this new environment. I only spent six or seven months in St. Louis but it was definitely fun and I’ll always remember that time.
MJ: Have you spent much time in L.A.?
TG: I’ve been here about three or four times. It’s definitely a good city with good weather, for sure. It’s just a lovely environment with lots of sports around.
MJ: Do you like spending a lot of time in your car?
TG: No. No. No. [laughing]
MJ: Your team made a splashy trade last week and now holds the no. 1 overall pick in next week’s draft. So … Goff or Wentz?
TG: I don’t know. We’ll have to find out. You never know, we might take a D tackle, or O lineman, a receiver, it’s not definitely going to be a quarterback.
MJ: You don’t think it’s definitely going to be a QB?
TG: You never know.
MJ: Well, congrats on a spectacular rookie year. You basically couldn’t start any better with over 100 rushing yards in four straight games. How did you stay grounded with all the instant attention?
TG: Just being around my teammates helped. But it’s just football—it’s the same stuff I’ve been doing my whole life. You just play for the love of the game and you want to be successful at it.
MJ: Were you prepared for the fantasy football element of it? What I imagine was extreme adulation?
TG: I never got into the fantasy football thing so haven’t paid much attention but shout out to all the people who drafted me last year.
MJ: But I’m sure you had five million people tweeting at you, no?
TG: Oh, for sure. Every time I see someone now it’s like, ‘thank you for helping me win my fantasy league.’
MJ: The league has been thought of as evolving into a passing league in recent years. But with your breakout year, and Ezekiel Elliott projected to be a high first round pick next week, how would you describe the current state of running backs in the NFL?
TG: I don’t really see it like that. You have to run the ball and you have to pass the ball. I feel like we’re still valuable. We do get overlooked but we’re definitely a position that you need and if there’s a runner good enough to go in the first round, why not take him?
MJ: Who’s the best in the game right now?
TG: That’s a no-brainer. You got the Godfather, A.P.
MJ: The Godfather? I didn’t know that was one of his nicknames.
TG: I think I just made that one up. But we’ll go with it.
MJ: The concussion issue and player safety in general is a pressing issue in the NFL with guys retiring early, some while still in their prime. How much do you think about your own safety when you’re playing?
TG: I try not to think about all that. I know they say a lot of players are retiring over, I just call it the c-word, I don’t even like to say the word. But it’s just a game we played all our lives and we know the consequences of it. At the end of the day, I try not to think about getting hurt because that’s when you actually get hurt.
MJ: Just to clarify, the c-word, concussion, is like a bad word to you?
MJ: Understood. What’s one thing you’d change about the NFL if you could?
TG: I wish there was more loyalty. Just players being able to stay on teams a lot longer instead of getting traded because of salary caps. If you can stick around—guys have families and get attached to the cities they’re in—that would be ideal.
MJ: Last thing. Now that the Rams are in Los Angeles, the franchise is supposed to bring in a new celebrity contingent when you move into your fancy stadium. Pick one celebrity you’d like to see become a Rams fan.
TG: I guess I’d like to see Kobe Bryant get some season tickets. Make sure you tweet that out to him.
MJ: OK, I’ll make the ask on your behalf. And we’ll get him playing Call of Duty, too. He has a lot of time on his hands now.
TG: For sure.