He had to fight his way to stardom at Cal. Now Patrick Laird will be embarking on the same journey in the NFL.
Laird, a former Mission Prep star, was signed Saturday as a priority free agent by the Miami Dolphins following the conclusion of the NFL Draft.
Laird wasn’t highly recruited by major Division I programs coming out of Mission Prep in 2013 and spent his first three years in Berkeley as a walk on. But he not only became a scholarship player but also led Cal in rushing the past two seasons, rushing for 2,088 yards and catching 96 passes for 610 yards and five touchdowns his junior and senior seasons combined.
Once again, nothing is guaranteed for Laird as he’ll have to battle at training camp later this summer to earn a spot on the Dolphins active roster.
But he’ll certainly have a chance.
The Dolphins ranked 18th in the league in rushing last year and let their top running back, Frank Gore, go in free agency. Miami’s backup, Kenyan Drake, had 535 yards on 120 carries and caught 53 passes for 477 yards last year.
The Dolphins drafted two running backs Saturday with their last two picks of the draft, both in the seventh round, Myles Gaskin of Washington and Chandler Cox of Auburn.
Laird previously told The Tribune over the winter that he would be working to improve his top-end speed and strength to prepare for the NFL.
“I realize I’m not a first- or second-round guy, but I’m going to train as hard as I can. And if I get the opportunity, I want to prove to a team that I can contribute,” he said at the time.
Laird becomes the second San Luis Obispo County native to hook up with an NFL team after former Paso Robles High School star Josh Oliver, who played tight end at San Jose State, was taken in the third round by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Tribune reporter Nick Wilson contributed to this report.