CHAMPAIGN — It's fairly easy to miss Kyron Cumby.
The Illinois football signee easily blended in to the crowd last month in early April at an Illini football practice at Memorial Stadium. Cumby, an all-purpose back, stands at 5-foot-7 and weighs 160 pounds. It's not hard for him to get lost in the crowd.
On a sunny day at an Illini spring football practice in early April, Cumby walked on the turf with a pink hooded sweatshirt, khaki shorts and a blue backpack while looking fairly unassuming. But when Cumby, a 3-star recruit from Plano, Texas, arrives in Champaign and slips on football pads, it's hard to figure much will be unassuming about him.
He's fast. Like, ranked No. 13 nationally in the 100-meter dash fast. Like, seven catches for 53 yards and a rushing touchdown on nationally ranked Allen (Texas) as a senior and torching the same team for 175 rushing yards as a junior fast.
That kind of speed has Cumby hopeful that he can contribute to the Illini immediately in the fall.
“You can’t teach speed," he said. "That’s why I feel like I have a great opportunity to come out here, play right away and just display my speed."
The Illini have made it a point to increase the overall speed on their football team. Cumby, and other members of the 2019 class, including Marquez Beason, help get Illinois closer to that goal. Cumby has a season best of 10.42 seconds in the 100 this year and hit 10.38 as a junior.
It translates to the football field.
“Kyron Cumby is one of the fastest guys around. Period," Illinois coach Lovie Smith said in December at his press conference during the early signing period.
Cumby comes to Champaign as the No. 16-ranked all-purpose back in the nation by 247Sports and rushed for 897 yards and 16 touchdowns on 119 carries as a senior to go with 523 receiving yards, 43 receptions and five receiving scores last season. He chose Illinois over offers from Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Texas Teach and Washington state.
He was even more dynamic as a junior, rushing for 1,390 yards with 408 receiving yards while accounting for 22 touchdowns.
One of the draws to Illinois, outside of the coaching staff's familiarity with the state of Texas, was offensive coordinator Rod Smith. Cumby has seen Smith plug similar players into his system and watched them blossom. Cumby hopes to be next in that line.
“He’s put a lot of players in positions to succeed and that’s all I can ask for: Put me in a position to succeed and put it on me to do the work," Cumby said. "... I have no reason not to succeed in this offense with what I can bring to it."
Rod Smith pictures Cumby in a variety of places within the offense. Though Cumby has primarily been a tailback in high school, Rod Smith envisions him playing in the slot as well. Any way to get Cumby the ball with the path of least resistance. On his end, Cumby has been running extra routes back home in Texas to have a leg up when fall camp breaks.
As long as Cumby shows he can handle packages tailored specifically to his speed, Rod Smith will install them. His stature is of no concern to the Illinois coaching staff.
"I think that’s kind of overrated. I know people want size and all of that," Rod Smith said. "To me, if you’re smaller in stature, you better be dynamic in something and he’s dynamic speed-wise."
Cumby has made a name for himself in Texas. He finished fifth in the 100-meter dash last season, and with his senior year winding down, he should be in place for another dynamic finish.
When asked in December if anyone on the team had 10.3 100-meter dash speed, Rod Smith grinned.
“If they do, I haven’t been playing them," he said. "I wonder what the hell’s wrong with me."