ST PAULS — Ask any great running back what it takes to consistently perform at a high level and the responses may vary. There are, however, certain undeniable constants like durability and will power that saturate the soul of all stand-out rushers.
St. Pauls running back Marqueise Coleman is beginning to adopt these distinctive characteristics. For interim coach Mike Setzer, the timing couldn’t be better as the team looks to re-establish cache within the local football scene.
“That’s one of the biggest things I saw out of him, [Marqueise] was one of the first guys to believe in the plan,” said Setzer, who was named interim coach this summer after the Bulldogs’ previous coach, Ernest King, took the head job at Westover.
The junior back is currently one of the leading rushers in Robeson County, amassing 205 yards on six yards per carry and is an integral part of the team’s 2-0 start. He’s not one to shy away from contact and he has the ability to take it the distance.
Coleman says his those physical tools make for an interesting ritual at practice.
“Running to [Interstate 95]…every time I break [a long run], Coach tells me to keep running to the road,” said Coleman.
As a sophomore, Coleman showed flashes of brilliance, including a 99-yard touchdown run against E.E. Smith.
A hamstring injury hampered his ability to take his game to the next level, however, and it’s no wonder why durability was the main talking point for him when discussing the reason for his success so far this year.
“I’ve been trying to stay healthy, mostly, because I got hurt last year,” Coleman said. “And just helping my [offensive] line, they young and still learning, but we come together as one.”
Coleman has established a good relationship with his offensive line and has in turn become more a vocal leader for the team. He says that though some of them were on junior varsity and are still getting acclimated to the speed of varsity play, he remains patient and tells them to be steadfast.
Staying healthy and encouraging others. These are two focal points that Setzer has laid out for his lead running back this year in hopes that he takes the next leap.
“This kid is a leader…I’ve seen him take even more of a role as a leader this year,” said Setzer. “He was a little banged up in the first game and in the fourth quarter, he took it upon himself and put a nail in the coffin. That’s the kind of leadership we need…I’m so proud of him.”
Coleman will need to exhibit more of his hard-nose, iron-man mentality if he wants to accomplish the lofty personal and team goals he and the coaching staff have set forth this season. He says he wants to be the county’s leading rusher and work towards securing a scholarship.
As for the team, Setzer’s group has won its opening two games for the first time since he was last coaching at St. Pauls in 2004. He says he’s “ecstatic” to be 2-0, but doesn’t want Coleman and the guys to get complacent. Setzer wants him to help get the Bulldogs respect in the county back first, then the state.
For Coleman, accomplishing that requires a simple notion.
“Work hard in practice and do everything coach tells me to do,” he said.
The Bulldogs will get their first crack at local respectability when they play conference opponent East Columbus on Friday.
Donnell Coley can be reached at 910-416-5165 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Sportsinmyveins.