MILLVILLE – Ryquell Armstead knew from a young age what his life’s calling was.
This week, the 2015 Millville High School graduate will fulfill that destiny.
The NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday and Armstead is fully expected to hear his name called at some point over the next three days of the seven-round event.
The thought of that happening brings a smile to the running back’s face.
“This has been a dream for me since I was 6 years old,” Armstead told The Daily Journal from Millville’s Wheaton Field last week. “Since I was 6, I’ve put on a jersey and strapped up a football helmet. In school when teachers asked you to write down what you want to be when you grow up I always said the NFL, so I’m finally there; it’s been a long process and I’m just grateful.”
From midget league in Millville to his time at Temple University, Armstead has made it impossible not to notice him on the football field.
The 5-foot-10, 220-pound tailback got the nation’s attention in November when he rushed for 210 yards and six touchdowns in Temple’s 59-49 win over Houston.
He finished his senior season with 13 touchdowns and nearly 1,100 rushing yards while averaging 5.2 yards-per-carry.
Armstead impressed again at the NFL Combine in February when he logged a 4.45-seconds 40-yard dash time — second fastest among running backs.
“Ryquell had a strong pre-draft process and is an ascending player right now,” his agent, Ed Wasielewski, said. “He has great hands, is a physical, violent runner who is good in pass protection and possesses both power and speed. He’s as complete of a back as you’re going to find in this draft.”
That’s not just agent talk from Wasielewski.
Armstead has gained steam in recent weeks from plenty of NFL circles.
Former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew recently featured Armstead on the NFL Network in a “Top 5 Toughest RBs in the Draft” segment.
On April 16, Armstead was a guest on the popular “Good Morning Football” talk show where the hosts highlighted his “angry” running style.
Armstead has embraced all of those characterizations and is anxious to prove himself as a pro.
“I see myself as an every-down guy, a guy that’s very unique, that can hit the home run, run between the tackles, block, catch the ball out of the backfield,” Armstead said. “You’re not going to find a guy my size that runs with my type of speed. I see my game translating very smoothly to the NFL. I understand at the next level a lot of things are faster, guys are stronger and bigger, but I have the utmost confidence in myself and what I’m capable of doing.”
Armstead first gained that self-confidence during his time at Millville, where he ran his way into the school record books, including a Thunderbolts single-game best 337 rushing yards.
When talking about the successes that have him on the verge of an NFL career, Armstead is quick to mention his old high school teammates and former coach Jason Durham.
“It’s definitely something that’s stuck with me throughout college, the loyalty, the bond I have with guys that I call my brothers,” Armstead said. “Coach Durham, I still see him around, we still talk, that’s a guy that came to my Temple games and when I get to the next level it will be the same thing, I’ll get him some tickets. All in all, it was truly a great coaching staff and I had great teammates, and I still hang out with some of those guys.”
While others might have doubted Armstead along the way, Durham is one person who never did.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Durham said of Armstead reaching this point. “By his senior year for us he was a really mature young person and it was obvious he had all the talent in the world. I think through this entire process he’s stayed true to himself and showed just how determined he is.”
Durham said he talks to Armstead “every month or two” and sent him a text Tuesday morning.
The former Bolts coach said it was “awesome” that Armstead wanted him to come to an NFL game to watch him play.
“That’s the reason why people get into coaching,” Durham said. “I’d love to go see him play, I’d be excited to do that, but I think the big thing is, and I told him this, is he has a great chance to take care of his family now and he worked hard for that chance.”
Family is very high, if not at that top, of Armstead’s priorities list.
While football is his passion, Armstead called his 3-year-old daughter Ry’kail his world.
Amidst the craze of the draft process, Armstead has made sure not to waver in his duties as a father. The last two weeks have offered some relief and given Armstead a little more time to relax with his daughter and family.