Warriors' senior back wears huge heart on his sleeve
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on September 30, 2010 2:28 PM
Take one glimpse at Lamar Best's 5-foot-5, 165-pound measurements on the Eastern Wayne roster and it's easy to label him with the same stereotypes he's heard his entire life.
He's too small to play football.
There's no way he can endure being hit for four quarters.
He'll get injured.
He should just stick to basketball.
Watch Best play and in mere minutes he leaves those stereotypes in the dust the same way he has so many would-be tacklers during his career.
Best began playing flag football when he was six or seven years old against children a year or two older than him. Always the smallest player on the field, Best recalls wanting to quit on numerous occasions.
"There were times where I would go home mad but I just had to work for it," said Best. "It's been hard. People have always been telling me I'm too small. But, I know I've got the heart."
Refusing to let the doubters or his size hold him back, Best stuck with football and his perseverance is paying off.
The Warriors struggled to adjust to new head coach Bubba Williams' offensive scheme a year ago. The offensive line lacked experience and chemistry and the result was a 1-10 season.
The team averaged 10 points a game.
Best managed less than 200 yards rushing.
One year later, a more cohesive offensive line has paved the way for Best to rush for more than 800 yards and 11 touchdowns through six games. Best leads the area in rushing, is averaging 135 yards per game and has rushed for more than 100 yards in five of the first six games. He has also scored four rushing touchdowns in each of Eastern Wayne's past two games.
A three-year varsity player, Best's offensive talents aren't limited to the running back position. He also lines up frequently at quarterback and receiver, which presents more headaches for opposing defenses.
"He's very versatile," said Williams. "We run different sets against different defenses and kind of adjust off of that. We try and confuse them a little bit with what he's doing.
A safety on defense, Best also returns kicks and is the punter. Best recovered a key fumble late in the third quarter of a 34-15 win over Wilson Fike last week.
"Coach (Glen) Gardner really preaches to our kids about creating turnovers. That's just kind of our defensive philosophy," said Williams. "Defensively, Lamar covers well and he always seems to find the ball. Kick-return wise, that's just one more way to get the ball in Lamar's hands in space and let him make plays."
With Williams' emphasis on dedication in the weight room, Best has seen his strength improve, particularly in his lower half. Breaking tackles and wrapping up ball carriers has become easier as Best has grown stronger. Williams' estimates Best's bench press has improved 70 or 80 pounds.
"When we had workouts there were times I thought I couldn't make it," said Best. "My first year playing, varsity guys used to knock me around. Now, those arm tackles that used to knock me down, that's not happening."
Despite Eastern Wayne's 4-2 start and Best's eye-popping numbers, the shifty tailback admits with a smile that his teammates still tease him about his size.
"They always call me 'short man,' or 'little man'" said Best. "They've got little jokes for me. Every day they have something different."
Then Friday night rolls around.
The light switch is flipped on.
The jokes and the doubts about a little man with a huge heart suddenly stop.