No matter the opponent, Oak Grove running back Aaron Graham is one of the most explosive players on the football field.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
That hasn’t always been the case.
In the fourth grade, Graham was deemed too fat to play running back. After surpassing a leaguewide weight limit to carry the football — by only a tenth of an ounce, if his memory serves him correctly — he spent the entire fall on the offensive line.
“It was awful,” Graham says six years later with a laugh. “Too fat.”
Few kids have ever played more out of position.
Now as a sophomore for Oak Grove, Graham has established himself as one of the area’s top running backs.
On Thursday night in Oak Grove’s 71-6 victory over Southwest Early College in the opening round of the Missouri Class 3 playoffs, Graham carried the ball only three times. But he still managed three touchdowns and totaled 68 yards.
The performance increased his season totals to 1,617 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns.
Several of those scores have been highlight-reel runs, including a 99-yard sprint against St. Pius X that coaches still replay during film studies.
“He’s got such a good burst when he sees the hole,” Oak Grove coach Pat Richard said. “When he gets people in space, they’re in trouble. It’s fun to watch. When you go back and watch our film throughout the year, it’s pretty amazing.”
Aside from their spectacular nature, the runs have also been timely. Oak Grove improved to 10-0 with Thursday night’s victory. That’s already three more wins than last year and four more than 2010.
Graham is quick to credit his offensive line for paving the way, but his teammates are quicker yet to credit the way he uses those big men up front. A year ago, Graham had plenty of playing time as a freshman, but the production wasn’t what he had hoped.
“I was cutting back and forth trying to make something happen in a hurry,” Graham said. “I learned that I need to be patient and follow my blockers. That’s helped me gain a lot of yards.”
In addition to an improved patience, Richard also believes Graham’s strength and speed have played a factor in his 9.3 yards-per-carry average this season. That’s more than 2 yards better than 2011 for Graham, who also excels on the baseball, basketball and track teams at Oak Grove.
The spike in production has Richard already pondering what might be in store for Graham’s 2012 postseason and final two years at Oak Grove in football, which Graham labels his favorite sport.
“I’m excited to see what the final product is,” Richard said before offering a smile. “But I’m enjoying him right now as a sophomore.”
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