Former Towson running back Terrance West used to sell shoes for a living, reluctantly joining the workforce as an overlooked prospect when his football career temporarily was derailed.
Now the Baltimore native has the job of his dreams. He was drafted in the third round Friday night by the Cleveland Browns, who traded up with the San Francisco 49ers to select him 94th overall.
"It's a blessing to get your name called in the second day," West told The Baltimore Sun during a midnight telephone interview. "Now, my favorite team is the Cleveland Browns. I wasn't sure where I was going, but it was a shocker when I got a call. I thought it was a prank call because the 49ers were on the clock and I saw an Ohio number on my phone. It was the Browns general manager [Ray Farmer] on the phone and he said, 'Are you ready to go?' It was amazing."
West overcame a low SAT score out of Northwestern High that forced him to enroll at Fork Union Military Academy four years ago. Then opportunities at Clemson, Maryland and Morgan State fell through for West.
The 5-foot-9, 230-pound West walked on at Towson after being passed over by the other schools, catching two buses at dawn each day to attend 5 a.m. practice sessions. West did that all while caring for his son, now 5.
"Yeah, it's special," West said. "This has been a long journey. It doesn't stop here. There's more to go. I've going to keep building my story."
West emerged as one of the top running backs in the nation last season as he led Towson to the Football Championship Subdivision national championship game. That included a playoff-record 354 rushing yards and five touchdowns during a 49-39 win over Eastern Illinois.
West rushed for 2,509 yards and 42 touchdowns last season and finished his career with a school-record 4,854 rushing yards and 86 touchdowns.
"They got somebody who will work their tail off," West said. "I will put my heart and soul into the jersey and go hard every day. I want to win a Super Bowl and win conference championships. This is just getting started. I run hard. I score touchdowns and I make people miss."
During West's campus Pro Day workout, an AFC South running backs coach compared him favorably to Washington Redskins Pro Bowl running back Alfred Morris.
West met with the Ravens at the NFL scouting combine and also participated in their local-prospects day, at which he spoke with Ravens coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome.
West was under consideration for the Ravens in the third round, but the Browns moved up and picked him.
"We liked Terrence," Newsome said. "Now, we just have to face him twice a year."
West visited the 49ers, Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks. He had a private workout for Falcons coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff on the Towson campus and had private meetings in Baltimore with the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins.
West doesn't lack for ambition. He said he tries to emulate NFL running backs Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore along with Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Marshall Faulk.
West displayed the requisite speed for an NFL running back when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds at the scouting combine, where he also caught the football smoothly and registered a 33.5-inch vertical leap and bench-pressed 225 pounds 16 times.
"Terrance is definitely a talent," Oakland Raiders scout Raleigh McKenzie said during West's Pro Day workout. "Some guys are better in shorts, some guys are better in pads. He's a pads guy. That's how he makes his money. He's a tackle breaker. He's a natural runner. Some guys struggle to make moves, but I think he's got good vision and is a natural.
"Coming from a smaller school like him, guys are always looking for something to prove. That's a good thing. You don't want a guy to come in and think they've got it made in the shade. I'm pulling for him."