INDIANAPOLIS — Ka’Deem Carey was 12 years old when three running backs were selected within the first five picks of the 2005 NFL draft.
The next year, Reggie Bush went second. The one after that, Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch were two of the top dozen players selected.
“I’m like, ‘OK, that’s exactly what I can do — and that’s what I’m gonna do,’ ” the former Arizona Wildcats running back said Friday at the NFL scouting combine. “And the next thing you know I get to nowadays, and they’re like, ‘Wait, you gotta go second, third round.’
“Why didn’t y’all tell me this a couple years ago: That running backs would go extinct?”
Welcome to the era of devalued running backs.
Common wisdom in today’s NFL says the position is disposable — with the risk of calamitous injury not worth the early-round investment.
This year could mark the second straight season in which a rusher is not picked in the first round. Last year, 23 running backs were chosen in Round 2 or later.
“I don’t like that,” Carey said. “Definitely, I feel like they think the running back spot is going extinct for some reason.
“They definitely need us.
“I’m going to definitely make sure that they know that, when I step onto the field, that they made a good pick. And that running backs aren’t going extinct.”
Carey was the nation’s leading rusher in 2012 and the No. 3 rusher in 2013, and combined for 3,814 yards and 42 touchdowns on the ground over his final two seasons.
That’s not enough to place him in the first round — or, judging by early analyst predictions, the second.
Carey, who Friday measured 5 feet 9ß inches and 207 pounds, with 31¾-inch arms and 9½-inch hands, knows what he needs to do to skyrocket: Run the 40-yard dash Sunday in about 4.5 seconds.
He’s been training with a speed coach in Carlsbad, Calif., and is confident.
“They know that I have that getaway speed,” he said.
NFL Network draftnik Mike Mayock didn’t expect to like Carey when he watched film; when he’d see him casually the past few seasons, he thought the Canyon Del Oro High School alum and two-time All-American was the product of coach Rich Rodriguez’s system.
“You put the tape on, you watch him drop his pad level and run over linebackers and make some efforts in the pass protection game and you go, ‘OK, this guy’s pretty good,’ ” Mayock said.
Mayock thinks Carey will go in the third round and be the sixth rusher selected, somewhere near Auburn’s Tre Mason and Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk.
“I think he’s had excellent production,” Mayock said. “He’s a tougher kid than I thought he was. He’s got good feet. He comes downhill. And he’s a guy who can make you miss.”
Carey felt that way as a sophomore, but wasn’t allowed to leave early for the NFL draft.
He said he knew he could return for his senior season and “definitely dominate,” but it was time to go.
He said talk about running backs only having a finite number of hits in them — there’s that disposable theory, again — didn’t factor in his decision.
Rodriguez said it did, and called that theory “BS.”
Carey said Rodriguez’s system helped his catching, and labeled himself a willing pass-blocker, if one who needs to improve his technique.
“He won’t be a guy that wows you at the combine,” Rodriguez told the Star last week. “He’ll run well. He’ll do all the agility things well and all that.
“But you put him on the football field and the guy can play.
“I’ll be anxious to see how he does in camp when the pads come on and he’s running hard and all that and they get a chance to see him.”
Carey said he has met with “almost all” the NFL’s teams, naming the Dolphins, Vikings, Browns, Steelers and Giants.
With a good run Sunday, he can get the attention he lacked on late-night Pac-12 television — and maybe even fight that extinction perception.
“It’s just the East Coast bias,” Carey said. “I’m sorry everybody, you guys are sleeping on us. Literally.
“You guys are asleep at the time that we’re playing.
“And I don’t blame you. I’d be asleep too. I like to get my sleep.”