INDIANAPOLIS — Max Borghi used to hear it all the time — why would a running back want to play for a coach like Mike Leach, whose teams annually run the ball the least of any team in the country?

“Yeah, people questioned me,” Borghi said Thursday at the NFL combine of his decision to commit to Washington State in 2018, turning down a late offer from Stanford. “But, hey, it’s worked out so far. I was able to show some of my abilities and I think it’s honestly a blessing. I’m a great receiving back, so showing I can do that, it’s nothing but helping me.”

And maybe Borghi was playing the long game all along.

Borghi’s NFL hopes likely rest on a team thinking he can be a third-down back, an increasingly important role in the NFL.

“Borghi is a scat back that will win at the next level as a pass-catching back,” wrote The NFL Draft Bible.

Borghi, a native of Arvada, Colorado, might not agree with the first part of that statement.

During his session with the media at the combine, he made clear he thinks he’s deserving of being considered a potential every-down back, and one who should be taken higher than many of the projections, which generally have him as a third-day pick.


“That I’m a complete back,” he said, when asked what he hopes to show NFL teams in the draft process. “I can do it all. I feel like what’s going to help me at the next level is my versatility as a running back. I’m able to catch the ball, I can run between the tackles. I can run outside the tackles. I can do it all.”

Such confidence was never lacking during Borghi’s WSU career — he famously once guaranteed a WSU win over Oregon State and said before the 2019 Apple Cup that “I will be scoring … a lot.”

He didn’t in that game, a 31-13 UW win, though he did have WSU’s only TD. But he did more last November, with two touchdowns as the Cougars won the Apple Cup for the first time since 2012, a 40-13 result that was also the largest margin of victory in the history of the series for the Cougars.

After the game, Borghi tweeted a picture of himself with the Apple Cup smoking a cigar.

“That was much needed,” Borghi said Thursday when asked about the picture. “Cougar Nation had been hurting for it. We’ve been hurting for it. I’d never won an Apple Cup. That game meant a lot to us, and to finally get it was a celebration for the team of all of our hard work and the success.”

That turned out to be the last game Borghi played with WSU as he decided to opt out of the Cougars’ Sun Bowl loss to Central Michigan and declared for the draft with a year of eligibility remaining, having said, “I’ve been here for like 12 years, I think.”


Borghi, listed at 5 feet 9, 210 pounds, explained again on Thursday that he might have played in the game if WSU had not gone into it with a depleted offensive line — three starters missed the game, including right tackle Abe Lucas, who also opted out (Lucas is also attending the combine).

“That was a tough decision,” Borghi said. “I was planning on playing the bowl game and three of my five offensive linemen weren’t playing. … I’m nothing without my O-line.”

After opting out, Borghi went to Phoenix where he has been training with EXOS.

He also took part in the Senior Bowl, though he sprained an ankle there which prevented him from doing on-field drills at the combine.

He said he should be healthy for WSU’s Pro Day later this spring.

But more than anything, Borghi’s calling card are all those catches he had at WSU. Of the 36 running backs invited to the combine, Borghi has the most career catches, 156. That includes 86 in 2019.


Not that he didn’t get chances to run at WSU — his 2,158 yards are eighth in school history with 32 rushing TDs, second in school history behind only Steve Broussard, a first-round pick of Atlanta in 1990.

But if WSU fans sometimes felt Borghi was underused — he averaged 9.4 carries per game in his four seasons with the Cougars — Borghi hinted Thursday he agrees with them.

“I think I’m one of the best backs in this class who can definitely run between the tackles as well,” he said. “I’m a running back who got a lack of opportunities at some points in my college career. I feel like if a team is willing to unleash me, I will be unleashed. I feel like I still have so much more in store and so much more in the tank, and I’m hoping a team gives me an opportunity.”

Could that team be the Seahawks?

Seattle’s needs at running back are hard to know at the moment and will be influenced greatly by whether the team can re-sign Rashaad Penny and if the Seahawks think Chris Carson will recover from neck surgery and be able to play in 2022.

But regardless of that, the Seahawks could also use one of their six picks to add depth. Seattle drafted at least one running back every year from 2016-20.

Borghi said he met with Seahawks reps at the Senior Bowl

“I’ve kind of known a lot of them just from being in Seattle and I think they’ve known me, so there’s definitely a connection there,” Borghi said.