August Fagerstrom | Beacon Journal sports writer

BEREA: “Where are these pictures going to go up?” Dri Archer asked a photographer at a youth football clinic as part of the NFL Rookie Symposium at the Browns’ training facility in Berea.

Archer, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ third-round draft pick out of Kent State, is still getting used to all of the work and media attention that comes with being an NFL running back.

But he’s loving every second of it.

Minutes later Friday afternoon, the drill station to which Steelers rookies had been assigned had turned into a wild, full-fledged game of keepaway, and Archer, a 5-foot-7 running back, bobbed and weaved his way through a small army of screaming, flailing children.

They didn’t stand a chance.

The speedy Archer — also a track star in high school — turned heads at the NFL combine this year. His 40-yard dash time (4.26 seconds) was the second-fastest time ever recorded since the NFL began electronic timing. His time trails only Chris Johnson’s mark of 4.24 from the 2008 combine. CBS Sports deviates from the “official” time, marking Archer at 4.16.

Archer, a consensus All-American after his junior season in 2012, was the catalyst in turning around a Kent State football program that hadn’t been to a bowl game for 40 years before they played Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

“It meant a lot,” Archer said. “We ended up losing the MAC Championship but it’s more about what we did accomplish. We had never been to a bowl game in 40 years. To be a part of something like that really means a lot. More importantly, to be able to share that with the group of guys from the class that I came in with was really special.”

Archer led the nation in 2012 by averaging 9.0 yards per carry. He totaled 1,429 rushing yards. His 561 receiving yards were the second most of any running back. He returned three kickoffs for touchdowns, averaging 36.9 yards per return, the highest mark in Mid-American Conference history.

It’s safe to say that Archer is a versatile player.

Unique?

“Unique is an understatement, man,” said Ryan Shazier, former Ohio State linebacker and fellow Steelers rookie. “He’s just tremendously fast. What he does, you can’t get out of just anybody. It’s amazing what he does. Whenever you get the ball in his hands, it’s like lightning in a bottle. We’ve just got to try and get that lightning as much as possible.”

Archer hopes to provide a much-needed spark to a Steelers team that was 27th in rushing and in the middle of the pack in receiving and kickoff returns in the NFL last season.

Archer’s exact role is still up in the air.

Scouts had trouble agreeing on whether Archer could be an every-down back at the NFL level or whether he would be destined for a career as a change-of-pace back, similar to the Philadelphia Eagles’ Darren Sproles.

But Sproles isn’t necessarily a bad comparison for Archer to hear, since he has been a dynamic part of every offense and special teams on which he’s been a part. He was never the featured back for the San Diego Chargers or New Orleans Saints, but that didn’t stop him from being one of the most important.

“I’m not sure,” Archer said of what his role will be with the Steelers. “It’s going to be a big role, but I’m just going to do whatever I’m asked to do. Play receiver, play running back, helping special teams. Whatever they want me to do, I’m going to do it.”

Not only will Archer add a boost to the scoring attack for the Steelers, but his one-of-a-kind skill set can help a defensive unit by having such a special athletic specimen to practice against on a daily basis.

“It really helps a lot,” Shazier said. “He really does everything. He can catch, he can run, he even goes through the tackles sometimes. Having him be able to do all that in practice really helps us break down angles, fundamentals and trust ourselves and what we have to do.

“When you’re chasing him and really understanding the way he cuts, you’re not going to see anybody faster than him, so it helps you be able to read and tackle any other guy.”

For a player of Archer’s stature who attended what was previously a low-profile football program at Kent State, the odds were stacked against him in terms of a career in the NFL. But he has carved his own lane and is owning every second of it. Not only on the football field in Pittsburgh, but for the community and the kids as well.

“I’m living my dream,” Archer said. “This is something I’ve always wanted to do as a kid. I’ve always wanted to give back to the community and the NFL has given us all a chance right now at this Play 60 youth football clinic. We’re just out here having fun, doing what we love to do.”

August Fagerstrom can be reached at afagerstrom@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Browns blog at https://ohio.com/blogs/browns. Follow August on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AugustF_ABJ.