HOOVER, Ala. — Ralph Webb was Vanderbilt’s leading rusher and scored seven touchdowns last season.
His 1,152 rushing yards ranked second on the school’s all-time single-season list, but he’s not on that part of the list when the topic turns to the Southeastern Conference’s top running backs.
He’s not getting national acclaim like Leonard Fournette at LSU, but that doesn’t seem to bother him.
“I just make sure I go out every game and work,” Webb said Monday at SEC media days. “I want to be the best running back I can be. Whatever the stats are at the end of the day, they are.”
As a sophomore, Webb started all 12 games and ranked seventh in the SEC in rushing yards. That effort, plus his work off the field, earned him a spot on the SEC fall academic honor roll and a third-team all-SEC nod from Phil Steele.
“He knows what it takes to truly take advantage of the opportunity,” Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said. “He has taken the subtle hints that are not so subtle — like pick your feet up and get stronger. He doesn’t shy away from those things. He went from year one to year two without having a sophomore slump.”
Webb shared the media attention Monday with linebacker Zach Cunningham and safety Oren Burks, emphasizing how important the season’s first game, against South Carolina, is to him.
“We have to make sure we get the momentum going on our side so we can start the season off getting victories,” Webb said. “It has been two years since we had a good season, so we have to get back on track to where we were.”
Where he was is meaningful, too. Last May and June, Webb joined 12 Vanderbilt students who traveled to Australia to study the diverse ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest.
“It was kind of a random selection,” he said. “I talked to my guidance counselor about it, and she mentioned it. It was a great experience, seeing the world from a different perspective and (how the) culture is different from America. It made me think that life is bigger than football. Football is not going to last forever, but I am going to make sure I enjoy the time I have with it.”
That continues this fall, when he’ll aim to break Zac Stacy’s school single-season rushing record of 1,193 yards set in 2011.
Fournette rushed for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns last season but, in Webb’s eyes, those numbers aren’t of any concern. He’s out to play with a chip on his shoulder as the underrated back of the SEC.