Kylan Wilborn isn’t built to run past defenders, so he runs over them

Notre Dame running back Kylan Wilborn is 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

It was late afternoon, and the Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High weight room was empty except for a few students wandering around.

A visitor looking for football coach Kevin Rooney had to stop and ask, “Who’s that?”

Kylan Wilborn, nicknamed “Meaty” since his Pop Warner days, was carrying around 25-pound weights as if they were rubber bands. With huge shoulders and tree-trunk thighs, Wilborn could have been mistaken for an ex-Notre Dame player or coach stopping by to work out.

The truth is that he is a 6-foot-2, 240-pound 17-year-old who has positioned himself, with little fanfare, into a player to watch for the 2016 season.


Committed to Arizona as a linebacker, Wilborn is preparing to see who wants to try to tackle him as a running back. In the one game he played running back last season — the final game — he rushed for 86 yards and scored two touchdowns against Mission Hills Alemany. By the fourth quarter, defenders were going out of their way to avoid a collision with Wilborn.

“I believe I can be one of the best running backs in the league,” Wilborn said. “I know with the pistol offense, when I get five yards of running full speed, I can run over or truck anyone. I know I’m going to dip my shoulder, and I know I’m going to have a full head of steam behind me when I do it.”

Wilborn isn’t being hyped by the Internet experts who award stars based on ability or potential, and he likes it that way. He didn’t go to combines, camps or showcases trying to be seen last spring. He was busy setting a school record in the shot put, 62 feet, 2 inches.

Sherman Oaks Notre Dame senior is 6-2, 240 pounds

He was recruited by Arizona the old-fashioned way — based on video from his high school games.

“I believe underrated is one of the best things you can be,” he said. “The five stars, it means nothing, because at the end of the day it’s going to be you and me on the field, and I don’t care about stars. Stars, going to elite seven on seven, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t do anything that there’s someone writing on a piece of paper how good you are.

“In the end, you know how you good you are. I know how good I am, and I don’t need others to judge me.”

He said an Arizona recruiter saw video highlights from a game last season offered him a scholarship and he accepted.

“The best thing I like about Arizona is they don’t care about stars,” he said. “They don’t care about how many offers you have. It’s what your film does, what your team does. You have great highlights, you get sacks, it doesn’t matter what you are. You have decent height, decent speed, decent strength, they’re going to recruit you.”

Wilborn will be a different kind of running back. He’s not the kind of breakaway threat who is likely to break off a long touchdown on any carry. He’s a grinder. By the fourth quarter, when other players are getting a little tired,he figures to be most effective in wearing down opponents.

“Speed doesn’t matter when you can be aggressive and intimidate your opponents,” he said. “When you know in the first and second quarter, you give it all you got, and by the third and fourth quarter they don’t want to tackle you. My speed is perfectly fine. I have more than enough to make plays.”

Twitter: @latsondheimer