Sunflower Showdown: Kansas State vs Kansas

Kansas State junior running back Alex Barnes (34) runs for a touchdown during the Sunflower Showdown at Bill Snyder Family Stadium this season.

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Alex Barnes turned heads at the NFL combine. And he caught the eye of an all-time great.

LaDainian Tomlinson, who still holds the NFL’s single-season record for touchdowns — finding the end zone for the then-San Diego Chargers 31 times in 2006 — and trails only Emmitt Smith on the all-time rushing touchdowns list, said Barnes likely made himself a good bit of money thanks to his combine performance.

“I saw this kid a lot, obviously, playing in the Big 12,” said Tomlinson, who starred at TCU and now works as an analyst for the NFL Network after his 11-year pro career ended in 2011. “I was pleasantly surprised with his combine workout.”

Barnes, Kansas State’s top running back last season, was a first-team All-Big 12 selection after leading the league in numerous categories. He ended the 12-game regular season No. 1 in the conference in total rushing yards (1,355), yards per game (112.9) and rushing touchdowns (12).

It was the other areas of his game on display in Indianapolis that impressed LT.

“I didn’t know he had this skillset,” Tomlinson said. “I saw it a little bit, but I didn’t think he was this fast — he ran a 4.59 (in the 40-yard dash). Catching the football, (he) was phenomenal. He ran great routes to catch the football.”

Barnes did 34 reps on the bench press, setting a combine record for running backs.

“I think this is a guy who’s going to shoot up some (draft) boards,” Tomlinson said. “I’m not saying he’s going to be a first rounder, but I think he’s a guy that potentially could come off the board in the second, third round.”

This article originally ran on themercury.com.

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