“Some people tend to get too proud of themselves too early and I don’t want to get too proud of myself right now,” said Ivory, whose 158 yards rushing in Tampa Bay last Sunday were the most by a Saints player since Deuce McAllister had 165 in 2003.
“I try to stay away from stuff that’s been said about me,” Ivory added after practice on Wednesday, speaking in a soft, raspy voice that at times barely rises above a whisper. “I don’t Google or nothing like that because I don’t want to see all that and I just try to stay focused. The more you stay focused on what you need to do, I feel like the harder you’ll continue to work.”
Playing more because of injuries to Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, Ivory has taken a major step toward overcoming a largely discouraging college career that ended with the once-promising Washington State recruit laboring in obscurity at Division II Tiffin in Ohio.
The 6-foot, 222-pound Ivory said he was dismissed from Washington State by coach Paul Wulff because he’d missed a practice and had been late for a few team meetings and appointments with trainers. He said he also thought Wulff, who took over for the fired Bill Doba before Ivory’s junior season, used him as an example.
“He was trying to turn the program around,” Ivory recalled, “so nobody had room for mistakes.”
There was also an alleged July 2009 altercation in which Ivory was accused of hitting another man over the head with a bottle. Ivory has since been charged with felony assault, but said he is innocent. Whitman County prosecutor Denis Tracy has said he’d likely let the current NFL season end before scheduling a court date in the case.
“I knew him as a person,” Walkosky said of their time together with the Cougars. “I wanted that kid on my team. He’s a solid person who cares about winning.”
Ivory, a native of Longview, Texas, had enjoyed moments of brilliance at Washington State. As a freshman he rushed for an 80-yard TD against Idaho. In three seasons with the Cougars, he had 91 carries for 534 yards, an average of 5.9 yards per carry.
“If you say there’s a kid in the Pac-10 (Conference) averaging 5.9, he’s a first- or second-round draft pick,” Walkosky said.
“He comes to my office and says, ‘Coach, what am I doing wrong? Do you want me to play defense?’” Walkosky recalled, laughing. “That’s the type of kid he was. We’re sitting there at 0-3 … and he’s like, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ He looked at himself first. That shows the character of Chris Ivory.”
The next game, Ivory tore the meniscus in his left knee and missed the rest of the season, leaving his pro prospects uncertain.