He didn't necessarily have a favorite NFL team, and lots of times a young Isaiah Pead didn't even have anyone to play football with in the front yard of the duplex his family rented on the east side of Columbus, Ohio.
So Pead would come home from school and chase his dream by chasing his football from the front yard to the back.
"I'd throw it up, over the roof, then sprint around the side," Pead said. "To catch it when you do that, you have to be fast."
He was on to something.
Last weekend, the St. Louis Rams used a second-round draft pick on Pead. By next weekend, he'll be on the field for his real NFL practice and officially be living the dream he had way back when it was just himself and his football in that yard, before he broke some guy named Archie Griffin's high school rushing records at Eastmoor Academy in Columbus and went on to cap his University of Cincinnati career by winning Big East Offensive Player of the Year honors last fall.
Pead hopes he's just getting started, though. He'd barely been booked for a flight to St. Louis last weekend when he started trying to get in touch with Steven Jackson, the Rams' starting running back and a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last seven season. Pead said his plan is to be "in his pocket," learning what he can from Jackson and preparing for what opportunities might come his way.
"Isaiah will be able to help us," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said.
Last weekend, Fisher introduced Pead and three other players selected during the NFL Draft's second night as "the best dressed draft class I've seen in a long time." Seated next to Fisher in a black vest and tie, Pead smiled and talked of being "like a freshman in college again."
Starting next weekend, he'll have to run like he's chasing that ball over the roof again.
"I won't lie, I didn't catch it every time I threw it over the roof," Pead said. "But I caught it a few times. My grandma loves to tell that story."
Pead, his mother and sister lived in one side of that duplex; his grandparents lived in the other. He started playing pee-wee football at age 7 and was a varsity contributor for a state playoff team by his freshman year of high school. By the time he was done at Eastmoor, he had 20-25 scholarship offers. He chose Cincinnati and then-coach Brian Kelly, and he completed his college career by posting back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons for coach Butch Jones.
Isaiah had a great senior year, and obviously was the MVP of the Senior Bowl," Fisher said. "Isaiah has got great change of direction quickness, vision, a jump-cut runner. Hes got acceleration, hes got hands out of the backfield. Hes just a great change of pace runner that we need here right now for Steven. Hes a smart young man. We had him in for (a visit). He had no problems whatsoever grasping concepts of offense."
His draft stock really seemed to rise following the Senior Bowl, and not just for what he did during the game. Pead impressed scouts throughout the week with his personality and passion for football.
"I'm a product of good coaching and good parenting," Pead said. "Hat's off to my coaches and my mother."
Leshawna Pead still lives in Columbus with her two younger daughters. The whole family was gathered last week when the Rams called Isaiah Pead and told him they were going to select him at No. 50 overall.
"I'm ready to get to work," he said.
Pead said he remembers the early 2000s Rams -- "The Greatest Show on Turf" -- and what another undersized runner, Marshall Faulk, did for those teams. He said he also looked up to Curtis Martin and Terrell Davis and is "just excited" for the chance to create an NFL legacy of his own.
"I know I'm biased, but Isaiah can do it all," said Zach Collaros, Pead's quarterback at Cincinnati and an undrafted signee with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "If we had run a pro-style offense and handed him the ball 25 times a game, he would have been a first-round pick.
"He sees holes most runners don't see. He accelerates; he goes zero to 60 in a flash. And I really think he'll be a dangerous return man in the NFL, too. He was always wanting to do more in the kick return game (in college) but we needed to keep him fresh."
In St. Louis, he has a fresh start and the chance at a very bright future.