Almost every time diminutive Memphis (Tenn.) East tailback Brian Kimbrow has taken the field since he began playing football a decade ago, he has been the smallest guy out there.
And that, he insists, never has bothered him.
Instead, it has served as motivation.
"I always feel like I have a chip on my shoulder," Kimbrow said. "I always have something to prove."
During his high school career, the 5-foot-8, 165-pound Kimbrow, a member of the prestigious Rivals100, has proven a lot. He recently capped things off with a 1,900-yard rushing total for 2011. On Monday, Kimbrow was rewarded for his efforts when the U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection tour stopped by his school to officially invite him to the game and present him with his game jersey.
"It took me a lot of hard work, but it's paying off," Kimbrow said. "Some people tried to move me to wide receiver or defensive back, but my coach told me to keep working and getting better at the things that I do. Being able to represent the Army means a lot to me and my family. My uncle was in the Air Force. He went to battle for all of us."
Kimbrow's journey to the Jan. 7 game at the Alamodome in San Antonio began as a child in his native Mississippi. He took up the sport when he was 8, but despite not having great size was put at tight end and linebacker, something he laughs about today when looking back. Eventually, Kimbrow landed at running back after moving to Memphis, but at first he struggled.
"When I started, I used to dance a lot," Kimbrow recalled. "I used to try to fake everybody out. I really didn't get that fast until I was in the eighth grade. That's when I started in track. When I first got to high school, in my ninth-grade year I started in the jamboree and I fumbled. I got benched for the rest of the year. That really motivated me."
As a sophomore, Kimbrow responded by rushing for 863 yards on 86 carries. A year later, he rushed for nearly 1,700 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. In January of this year, the speedster was named one of the top-two running backs at the U.S. Army All-American Combine.
"I've got a big heart," Kimbrow said. "When you're small, it's like you do everything in your power to achieve things bigger guys might have. You have to have something they don't have. You have to make guys miss. You have to have speed. You just have to become an all-around player and go 100 percent at everything you do. And you have to put God first."
In July, Kimbrow committed to Vanderbilt, a move that surprised many.
But to Kimbrow, the pick made perfect sense.
"I'm used to being the underdog," Kimbrow said. "That's one of the reasons I chose Vanderbilt. I like the underdog. I'm just like Vanderbilt."
Kimbrow's performance at the 2011 U.S. Army All-American Combine helped put him on the map. Now, he hopes to end his prep career in style back in the very same city.
"I just want to have fun," he said. "I feel like I'm the best player that touches the field everywhere I go. I feel like I can compete with anybody. People always underestimate me. I'm always joking around and smiling. But it's a different story on the field. Out there, I'm going to compete."