LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — Kellen Overstreet describes it as one of the toughest things he has ever been through.

Overstreet came to Wyoming as a true freshman running back in 2015, and as the Cowboys' first-ever Parade All-America signee.

The coaches liked him enough where he saw some playing time that season, and also on special teams. Overstreet had 16 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown, and caught two passes for 22 yards. But in Wyoming's season finale against UNLV, Overstreet tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on a kickoff return. On top of that, he also had shoulder surgery, forcing him to miss the entire 2016 season, which he used as his redshirt year.

"There were days I didn't want to go in and (didn't) feel like working," Overstreet said of his mental and physical rehabilitation from both injuries.

"During the season, it was tough watching and not having the opportunity to play. I didn't miss a lot of games in my football career. I love my teammates and what we accomplished (an 8-6 record and a Mountain West Mountain Division title), but it was tough seeing them win and not being a full part of that."

Overstreet gets his opportunity Tuesday as Wyoming has its first of 15 spring practices. He is one of four players who will try to show what they can do to help fill the void left by junior Brian Hill, the Cowboys' career rushing leader, who declared himself eligible for April's NFL Draft.

Overstreet said he was cleared by doctors for all football-related activities earlier this month. He is also approaching this spring with a similar mindset as he did when he first arrived at Wyoming in the summer of 2015.

"I'm going into it like there's an opportunity to play, and I'm going to work my butt off to get one of those positions."

Wyoming running backs coach Mike Bath said Overstreet "looks good physically" entering spring drills, but how that translates onto the practice field remains to be seen. Overstreet is listed at 5-feet-11, 196 pounds, but Bath said he's around 215 to 218 pounds now.

The only other running back this spring who has carried the ball in a game for Wyoming is redshirt junior Nico Evans. He had 11 carries for 33 yards last season, and had 14 carries for 56 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2015. Evans also has returned six kickoffs during the last two seasons.

Redshirt sophomore Milo Hall played in four games last season, but didn't get a rushing attempt. Redshirt freshman Mike Green also will get a hard look from coaches.

Overstreet showed enough as a true freshman to have Wyoming's coaches intrigued about what he can do now that he's healthy again.

"Kellen is a guy you point to because of what we saw as a true freshman," offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brent Vigen told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle (http://bit.ly/2nx44eN). "He's a little different mold than Brian, but a common denominator is his relative size.

"As a freshman, he was a guy that had really good feet and top-end speed. I'm anxious to see how he runs between the tackles with power. He has the aptitude to understand the (pass) protection side of it. He's got the potential to be a complete guy."

Bath said Overstreet handled last year well, although he struggled early. But after the first month or so, Bath and other Wyoming coaches were getting reports from training staff that Overstreet was "as good as they've had" in terms of how he attacked and approached his rehab.

Bath describes Overstreet as a "grounded and mature kid." Overstreet said the experience helped him become closer to his faith and was a lesson in patience.

Now, Overstreet is ready to get back onto the field and play the game he has loved since he was a youngster.

"I think it's going to be a pretty exciting spring," Overstreet said. "The workouts, in terms of the rehab, lifting and running without the football, have kind of been monotonous — almost to the point of boring — because it's been over a year since I've played football. Even during spring ball, the drills aren't as much fun, but it will be fun to be out there with the guys.

"I'm definitely ready to compete for the starting job, but more than anything just to compete. I haven't done that in a long time and feel I'm ready for it."

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Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com