Whenever Archie Wannamaker reflects on his life, he knows that Rosa Marie Joiner always gave him the best advice. It will always be his view that mother knows best.
She's the one who told him he'd someday make something of himself, the one who advised him to go to Mount St. Joseph to get "a decent education."
And when Wannamaker wanted to quit playing football as a sophomore to be at her side during a long illness, she insisted that he continue playing.
That was five months before she succumbed to cancer.
"She told me 'if you keep playing, you have the talent for good things to happen to you,' " said Wannamaker, who leads area scorers with 74 points, including 12 touchdowns.
"Every day her words are with me. I think about her before every game. In fact, she's a big motivation for why I play."
Soon after Joiner's death, Wannamaker, the area's fourth-leading rusher with 679 yards over four games, moved in with his aunt and uncle, James and Sheila Lee.
And since then, the Lees, their children, Jasmine, 10, and J.J., 8, have been mainstays at the Gaels' football games.
"They've supported me and taken care of me," said Wannamaker. "They're like my parents."
True to his mother's words, good things continue to happen to Wannamaker.
Several colleges are interested in the 5-foot-8, 170-pound back who can cover 40 yards in about 4.5 seconds. Among them are Virginia, Duke, West Virginia, Pittsburg and Rutgers.
Some want him as a running back, others as a cornerback.
Wannamaker has three interceptions (one returned 65 yards) as a defensive back, and whether he plays offensively or defensively in college, coach Mike Working feels a recruiter can't lose by taking a chance on him.
"He can hurt you a lot of ways as a running back, whether he just gets outside and uses his speed, or cuts inside, where he can sidestep and not lose ground," Working said. "He can make people miss, or, if he has to, he can dip a shoulder and bang his way for those extra yards."
Working added that, despite his size, Wannamaker can pack quite a wallop.
"He really likes to hit people, whether running the ball, blocking or tackling -- that's why I think he'd make a great cornerback," Working said.
"And for the team, he's a leader by example. When he says something, it's always in a positive way, and everyone listens."
Wherever he ends up, it seems likely that success will follow. It's been that way since Wannamaker has been part of the Gaels' program.
"When I was on fresh-soph team, we were No. 1, and we went undefeated when I was on junior varsity," said Wannamaker.
"And last year, we weren't even thought of at the beginning of the season, but we went on to win the league title and ended up being ranked [No. 4 in the area.]"
Last year, Wannamaker shared the backfield with second-team All-Metro JeVon Norris, who has graduated.
Wannamaker, who rushed for 1,006 yards and scored 17 touchdowns last season, has even higher aspirations for the Gaels than just defending their Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference crown.
"We're No. 1 in the area, but that's not good enough," Wannamaker said. "I want to be No. 1 in the state."
Wannamaker's goal may not be far from sight: The Gaels are ranked No. 2 in the state behind Seneca Valley of Montgomery County in the Associated Press poll.
Of immediate concern, however, is the Gaels' league opener against Calvert Hall on Saturday. It's a homecoming game for Mount St. Joseph, and another time for Wannamaker to show off for his family.
For Wannamaker, it also will be another day devoted to Rosa Lee Joiner.
"Whenever I run the ball," he said "I feel like she's right there with me."