Askew wouldn't mind a few carries

B.J. Askew (Getty Images)

Once upon a time, B.J. Askew was a halfback with a fullback's body. The coaches at the University of Michigan changed that his junior year, making him a fullback. The NFL has kept him pigeonholed, but as the Bucs look to spread out their carries in the wake of injuries, Askew may be asked to carry the ball just a little more. He wouldn't mind.

B.J. Askew wants you to know that he can carry the football. It's not ego. It's just the truth.

Askew is a running back disguised in a fullback's body. But, then again, most fullbacks are. Just look at Mike Alstott. Askew did before he signed with Tampa Bay this offseason. He even told the media he could be the next Alstott.

Bragging? Maybe, but please note that Askew rushed for more than 1,500 yards at the University of Michigan. He actually rushed for 902 yards as a sophomore.

But then the coaches asked then 6-foot-3, 233-pound to move to fullback because that's what the Wolverines needed. Askew obliged.

Now's he's a fullback.

So that's what he gets for being a team player?

He's not bitter, but his heart knows what it wants.

"That's been my passion — running the ball," Askew said. "But I've always been in the situation where I could do both and when there's not a fullback, I have to be the one to make the switch."

The Bucs are a backfield-by-committee right now, so it stands to reason Askew might get a chance to carry the football this Sunday against Tennessee. But just try to figure out what kind of runner Askew is. He entered this season with 27 career carries for 102 yards. He has three catches for 21 yards so far this year.

There is no track record there — not that Earnest Graham and Kenneth Darby have great NFL track records, either. So I asked running backs coach Art Valero, and he said the Askew-Alstott analogy isn't so far-fetched.

"He has great hands — hands like Mike's got," Valero said. "He is very versatile. We put him on film as a running back and he has ability. He has some shake. He has good vision. He (can) provide not only a change of pace, but he can also give Earnest a blow."

The Bucs love what Askew does for the offense. Jon Gruden talks about him weekly. So why not use him more?

You can't take a halfback and make him a fullback, Askew said.

"They don't make fullbacks anymore," Valero said. "Those old-school fullbacks are a thing of the past."

So, for the good of the team, Askew started at fullback after the opener.

For the good of the team, Askew became Curtis Martin's lead blocker in New York and paved the way for that back's NFL rushing title in 2004.

For the good of the team is what got Askew into this job. But he can't see himself reacting any other way when a coach asks him to do a job — even if it runs against his passion.

"I could have been a selfish player (at Michigan) and said, ‘No, I'm not moving to fullback. Forget about it," Askew said. "But then, you know, we go 0-and-whatever, or win just a few games and I don't want that. Winning is more important to me than playing the position. It's a big sacrifice, then and now."

But it's a sacrifice Graham will be grateful for when running lanes open up on Sunday. Chances are Askew will lead the way.

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