Speedy Selli keeps Poly a step ahead Tailback averaging two TDs a game

October 07, 1992|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

Two steps and, "I was gone," said Sekou Selli.

"I wasn't supposed to be there," said Selli, a 17-year-old junior at Poly High, recalling an episode of mischief from his childhood in Liberia, Africa.

"There were signs all over the place telling you not to go in, but I couldn't resist," Selli said of his nighttime adventure on a college campus. "Then a big guard started chasing me."

And to a 7-year-old trying to outrun a man, half a mile of darkness can seem like forever.

"I just ran, and ran and ran," said Selli. "Then I looked back and I'd finally lost him."

Now, Selli outruns defenders as a tailback out of Poly's power-I. His first name means "great leader" in his native language, and as his statistics bear out, he has been that.

In three games, Selli has rushed for 415 yards on 42 carries -- nearly 140 yards a game and 10 per attempt. And of his six touchdowns -- two in each game -- four have come on runs of 65 yards or longer.

"He's got great acceleration," said Poly football coach Augie Waibel, whose No. 4 Engineers are 2-1. "Two steps, and he's at full speed."

He runs the 40-yard -- in 4.3 seconds, and won Maryland Scholastic Association titles in the 100- and 200-meter --es as a freshman on the JV track team.

Said Waibel: "Once he gets outside, and once he gets beyond the linebackers, he's always a threat to go."

On Selli's season-opening handoff from quarterback Mike Forstner, in the Engineers' 28-8 victory over McDonogh, he raced untouched 83 yards down the right sideline.

In the Engineers' next game, a 22-0 win over Cardinal Gibbons, Selli rushed for 115 yards on 13 carries, including a 65-yard touchdown.

Selli was even more impressive the following week, with 205 all-purpose yards, including 185 rushing on 12 carries, in the Engineers' 22-15 loss to No. 2 Loyola.

The Engineers trailed 7-0 when Selli got the ball on their first play from scrimmage.

Selli, 5 feet 8, 163 pounds,slammed into a cluster of players at the scrimmage line, bounced outside and sprinted past the secondary for a 65-yard score.

He scored on a similar play midway through the second quarter -- this time from 79 yards -- then added the conversion run.

"They were both the same plays -- a 43 blast -- the tailback to the No. 3 hole. He had good second efforts," said Waibel. "With Greg Kyler [his backfield mate] playing both ways, Sekou had to do more in that game. This is only his second year of football, but he's getting better and better each game."

What makes his accomplishments more impressive is that Selli, the youngest of seven children, never played an organized sport before joining the track team as a ninth-grader.

"I guess I got the skills from my father, Taylor. He was a soccer player, but he died when I was 2," said Selli.

Selli's family came to America when he was 10, living briefly in Columbia and Washington before moving to his current East Baltimore home when he was 15.

His desire to be an architect is what attracted him to Poly.

Selli joined the Engineers' track team midway through the season. That's where players, including Kyler, spotted him and asked him to come out for football.

His first few practices were disastrous.

"He stunk," said Bruce Strunk, who coached last year's unbeaten JV squad. "When the ball was pitched to him, he'd see 11 guys coming at him and he'd just run for his life. He was kind of timid."

Said Selli: "I was a sorry [sight]. I couldn't make a cut, and I kept running to the wrong holes. I couldn't remember the plays half of the time."

Strunk worked with the youngster, finally giving him his first start in the Engineers' fourth JV game.

"He ran for a couple of touchdowns," said Strunk. "You knew that the talent was there, he just had rarely even seen a football."

The aspiring architect still is improving, following the blueprints of his coaches. But he has a foundation for building a fine future.

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