Neither Kearney coach Greg Jones nor his senior tailback, Brock Broughton, remember the first time they met three years ago. But they each recall their second encounter with remarkable detail.
A couple of weeks after moving to Kearney from Sandusky, Ohio, Broughton sought out his new football coach in one of the hallways of the high school. He delivered a purposeful message.
“I’m Brock Broughton. And I’m going to be your starting running back next season,” Broughton remembers saying.
Jones recalls smiling — “I may have even laughed a little bit” — but he promised Broughton he would receive a fair opportunity to win the job.
Jones isn’t quick to plug sophomores into his starting lineup — unless it’s an area of need, of course — and he already had a pair of juniors fighting for carries in his wing-T offense. That made the outlook for Broughton rather bleak.
“We like those kids that have confidence in themselves and have that desire and passion,” Jones said. “But we’ve been in a situation where we haven’t started a a lot of sophomores. It’s a situation where you’ve got to be really special to start as a sophomore.”
In this case, it applied.
Three weeks into fall practice, Broughton ran away with job. He started the season opener and rushed for nine touchdowns as a sophomore.
A sign of things to come.
Two years later — as he prepares to lead Kearney into the Missouri Class 5 semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday at Lee’s Summit West — Broughton owns the school’s all-time rushing mark.
A tailback known mostly for his blistering speed — he ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash at a camp at Kansas State — he has run for 4,191 yards and 71 touchdowns in three years.
The numbers improved every season. Broughton is 33 yards shy of becoming Kearney’s first 2,000-yard rusher in a single season He has reached the end zone 37 times, making him one of the leading candidates for the Thomas A. Simone Award, given to the top football player in Kansas City.
“It might seem like it came easy to me, but I had to get used to the speed of the game,” said Broughton, who orally committed to Western Illinois, though more Division I offers are starting to pour in. “I realized pretty (quickly) that you have to raise your football IQ. You have to work on things by yourself — not just during practice. I think that’s when I really took off.”
His evolution forced a change in the Kearney offense. After running the wing-T most of his coaching career, Jones switched to a pro-style spread offense late last season, allowing Broughton to serve as a feature back rather than playing a role in a committee. Broughton’s first carry Friday will be No. 300 for the season.
“When you have that kind of kid coming back, we don’t need to be giving half the carries to someone else,” Jones said.
Broughton isn’t the only benefactor of the offensive tweaks. First-year quarterback Austin Hinck has 2,253 yards and 23 touchdowns. And his top wideout, Zack Davis, has 832 receiving yards.
But it all starts with the quick-footed, power running back who warned his coach this was coming.
“He told us he was special, and he was right,” Jones said. “He talked the talk, and then he came out here and walked the walk. You have to respect a kid like that.”