He's the best player in America you may never have heard of. If you haven't, you soon will.
Dri Archer doesn't play for a big-time program in a big-time conference and, truth be told, in high school he wasn't even a big-time recruit. Kent State was his only FBS offer. But he is one of the best weapons and most exciting players in college football.
Archer is leading the nation in kickoff return yards, averaging an astonishing 47.7 yards per return, tops in the NCAA. He has been so dominant this year on returns that he outdistances No.2 on that list, Trey Watts of Tulsa, by more than 13 yards per return.
For those wondering, the all-time kickoff return record is held by BYU's Paul Allen, who averaged 40.08 yards per kickoff return in 1961, an amazing number that Archer has a good chance to eclipse. He has been an instrumental part in Kent State's resurgence. Kent State is bowl eligible at 6-1, and is 4-0 in the MAC. The Golden Flashes haven't been to a bowl game in 40 years, but Archer is one of the main reasons that streak will likely end this year.
"I guess I'm playing with a chip on my shoulder, coming from where I did and no one was recruiting me," Archer told Yahoo! Sports. "I came to Kent State and now I'm just doing what I love to do."
He's versatile. Archer plays running back and wide receiver in addition to special teams, but Archer prefers running back and it shows. He tops the team with 709 rushing yards on 68 carries, including eight touchdowns, which led Golden Flashes head coach Darrell Hazell to say of Archer, "he's that change of gear" in their backfield.
The gaudy numbers and the success he has found in 2012 was supposed to happen last year.
During training camp in 2011, Archer found out that something was wrong with his academics. A course he retook didn't count, so he fell below the minimum standard needed to be a part of the team. He recalls the feeling of helplessness in not being able to play and help his teammates on the field last season when he was ineligible. Instead of sulking, Archer still went to practice every day and worked out religiously, using the extra time to focus on his academics while getting physically stronger.
He remembers the hard work he put in before during the offseason and the disappointment -- and perhaps even shame -- he felt at not being able to play a season ago. He was spurred on by the feeling "like I let my teammates and everyone else down."
"It made me look at life a different way, now I'm pushing more with school and not getting behind so I can play football," Archer said. "It changed my life a little bit."
His efforts are bearing fruit this year as he is bigger, faster and stronger and helping to turn around a Golden Flashes team that was 5-7 a season ago. On Saturday, Archer and his teammates will face No. 15 Rutgers in a big road test. It is a game in which a team that has been historically one of the worst in the disrespected MAC can prove it is legit.
There's a lot for the Golden Flashes and Archer to play for on Saturday against the 7-0 Scarlet Knights.
"Everyone thinks we're a weak program, but we're going to come out there to fight against Rutgers and play our best game. We're not scared of any challenge, we're going to go out there and battle," Archer said. "I know my team, I know we're all ready. We've prepared all week and we're ready for the challenge."
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Follow Yahoo! Sports' Kristian R. Dyer via Twitter @KristianRDyer.
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