Nothing has come easy for Chris Ivory in his NFL career. He entered the league as an undrafted free agent from tiny Tiffin University and now nine years later the Bills are counting on Ivory to fill a key role in the Bills running back room.
"It's a blessing for one," said Ivory about entering his ninth NFL season. "Being that I made it this far, I think it's a great accomplishment, especially coming out as an undrafted free agent. When I look back and I think it's just a blessing."
The Bills brought in Ivory to complement LeSean McCoy and add a productive veteran presence to the offense. Bills head coach Sean McDermott sees the value in Ivory's veteran experience and his style of play.
"Chris definitely has the experience, if you will," said McDermott. "He's done that before over the course of his career, in terms of carrying the workload of the starting running back… What he's able to do, not only with the ball in his hands, but also without the ball in his hands is important. I've been very impressed to this point with Chris's habits and the ways he's added a veteran leader at the position in addition to the leadership we already have at that position. He's been a nice addition for us."
Even as a veteran, Ivory admits he isn't the most vocal player in the locker room. Still, the nine-year vet has his own way of taking a leadership role.
"Chris is a quiet guy," said Bills running backs coach Kelly Skipper. "I think he leads by example with his running style. I think he brings a lot of energy that way in the run game."
When Ivory signed with the Bills this offseason, he reunited with Skipper who coached in him in two previous stops in his football career.
"I was fortunate enough to coach him in college his first year as a freshman at Washington State, and I coached him one year in Jacksonville," said Skipper. "He's a hard worker, a physical running back, he gets a lot of yards after contact and that's what we're looking for right now."
Ivory meshed quickly with the other running backs on the roster. Something he said he was very easy.
"The running back room has been great," said Ivory. "Great group of guys. The vibe is there, and it's just natural. It's natural with this group because everybody is pretty outspoken."
The big fish in the room, McCoy, has always admired Ivory's work from afar. Now, he gets to interact with him daily.
"I've always been a fan of Chris Ivory," said McCoy. "He's a guy who runs extremely hard. I make jokes with him now that this year for sure I'm going to run a guy over and he's inspired me to do that. We'll see. It'll be fun working with him. I'm sure he'll do a lot of the short yardage, keep me fresh. Hopefully he doesn't take too many touchdowns from me. Other than that, excited to work with him."
Coming to the Bills this offseason, Ivory is only 148 yards away from reaching the 5,000-yard mark in his career. He has produced 28 rushing touchdowns and added 743 receiving yards with three receiving touchdowns.
Ivory understands he has a job to do this season, and he wants Bills fans to know that whenever he goes out on the field, he's ready to take action as he enters the ninth season of his pro career.
"With anybody that's out there, it's about performing," said Ivory. "I'm a performer. I can perform at a high level."