PITTSBURGH -- Many anticipated the Steelers would add a running back to their roster during the 2020 NFL Draft, but not many predicted a fourth-rounder out of Maryland.
Anthony McFarland didn't have much contact with Mike Tomlin before the NFL Draft, but he did see him around throughout his college career. When McFarland decided to end his college career two-years early and pack up for the NFL Draft, though, he caught Tomlin's eye.
McFarland left the University of Maryland after two years of playing time. Redshirting his freshman year after missing his entire high school senior year with a broken leg, he felt his short experience at College Park was enough to take the leap to the pros.
"Going back to high school, me breaking my leg and having to miss my senior year; those are things that I think about a lot," McFarland said. "I try to not get so down on myself or beat myself up so much because I know the things that I've been through."
Those experiences run deeper than football. McFarland dealt with a redshirted freshman season and then the death of a teammate to begin his collegiate campaign.
During spring workouts, Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair collapsed on the field due to heat stroke. 14 days late, he passed.
"My experience at Maryland was a lot of ups and downs," he said. "Everything that we went through. Coming in freshman year, me having to redshirt. Coming in after that, losing our teammate Jordan McNair who I came in with. It was a lot of ups and downs on and off the field. But ultimately I'm glad that I could experience those things when I could because it made me who I am today and how I got to this point I'm at.
"At the end of the day, I've been through a lot of adversity at Maryland. I had a lot of success and I had a lot of downfalls, but that's a big thing about life and something that I understand."
McFarland did play well that season. His first season of action, he rushed for 1,034 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 7.9 yards per carry.
Unfortunately, heartache struck again. McFarland's numbers dropped slightly in 2019, but still rushed for 614 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 5.4 YPC.
He says he wasn't playing healthy, though. Participating in 11 of the team's 12 games, McFarland says he was running on an ankle sprain nearly the entire year.
"I was injured the whole season," McFarland said. "It happened Week 2 against Temple and I didn't get 100% until the end of the season and that was against Michigan State. I dealt with that the whole season."
He finally decided to get an MRI before the team's game against Indiana. After discovering it was an ankle sprain, he sat out - his only game.
Today, he's healthy.
"Now I'm 100%. That's over with and I'm ready to go," he said.
Through the loss of a teammate and a injuries, McFarland still finds the good in his experiences. He said, without them, he wouldn't be where he is; the 124th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
"All the injuries and everything I've been through, it's all out the window and on to the next chapter in my life and that's to be a Pittsburgh Steeler and play football," he said.