- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- It's not something that is seen often: A Massachusetts native, one of the top NFL prospects, conducting interviews at the NFL combine.
It was an occurrence so out of the norm, in fact, that one reporter couldn't help but ask UConn running back Jordan Todman about his background playing football at Dartmouth (Mass.) High School.
"I feel like Massachusetts might be better than people think," Todman responded on a busy Saturday highlighted by Auburn quarterback Cam Newton's meet-the-press session.
"Being recruited probably wasn't as easy as if I went to a Florida school or a Texas school, but I made the best of it. I'm still here with all the players here from all over the country, so it really doesn't matter."
While at Dartmouth High School, Todman became the second-leading rusher in state history, with 5,083 yards and 70 touchdowns. He was a two-time all-state selection and conference player of the year as a senior.
"I was recruited by Boston College and Penn State. Purdue was actually my first scholarship offer," Todman said. "I went back and forth with my family. I ended up at UConn and had a great career."
Last season as a junior, Todman rushed 334 times for 1,695 yards and was named the Big East Conference Offensive Player of the Year. In January, Todman declared as an early entrant for April's NFL draft.
"Being the second-leading rusher in the nation ... I thought that it was a pretty good accomplishment," said Todman, who turned 21 on Thursday. "I carried the ball a lot last year -- over 300 times -- and [so] I wanted to make my decision and chase my dream."
Even though he has local ties, Todman said he trained for the combine across the country at Velocity Sports Performance in Orange County, Calif. He was joined there by Washington quarterback Jake Locker and Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, both of whom are expected to be selected in the early rounds of the draft.
"I'm out there with a good group of athletes, and we all push each other to do better," Todman said.
Former UConn running back Donald Brown, a first-round selection of the Colts in the 2009 draft, also helped Todman prepare for the combine.
"I talked to [him] earlier this week and asked him for advice," Todman said. "He encouraged me to go out there and do what I do, and pretty much tear it up and leave it on the field."
One concern of teams examining Todman this week will be his small frame. While at UConn, he was listed as 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds.
"We weighed in yesterday, and I was 203 [pounds]. Just now, I went on the bench [press] and did 25 reps [of 225 pounds]," Todman said. "So I feel like I can withstand the pounding. Being able to carry the ball over 300 times last year can speak for my small frame.
"Not too many running backs in the NFL right now singularly carry the ball 300 times a season. For those who say I'm too small, hopefully that speaks [for that]."
Considered a mid-round prospect, Todman will join a small group of NFL players with Bay State ties -- a group including Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, New England Patriots defensive lineman Ron Brace, New York Giants linebacker Jonathan Goff and San Diego Chargers defensive lineman Jacques Cesaire, among others.
"Growing up in Massachusetts I went to a lot of Gillette Stadium games and was fortunate to play there," Todman said. "You think about being the hometown-hero-type thing and going back to play in New England, but at this point, wherever you get drafted will become by favorite team."
But where Todman lacks in size, he makes up for in confidence.
"I'm going to continue to work my butt off," he said, "just as I have my whole life."
Mike Rodak is a contributor to ESPNBoston.com's Patriots coverage.