Rushing away from tough start

Salisbury: Running back Leroy Satchell is starring on and off the field this season for the unbeaten Sea Gulls.

October 29, 2004|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

When Salisbury "superback" Leroy Satchell carries the ball, stiff-arming his way to more than 7 yards a carry, it's almost as if he is running away from something.

"When I'm out there, I'm into a zone," said Satchell, who grew up in the rough Park Heights section of Baltimore. "I always knew football was the one thing that could get me out of my situation."

As a youngster, Satchell said he regularly witnessed drug activity and violence.

"Being a kid, I didn't really know what to think or how to take it," said Satchell, a junior who is averaging 111.3 yards a game for the 7-0 Sea Gulls. "I knew it wasn't right. It happened so often, I kind of became hardened to it. Those pictures will never leave me. They'll always be with me the rest of my life."

He said he avoided the temptations of the street "for the most part." A turning point came when he moved in with a family friend to spend his senior year in the quiet town of Waynesboro, Pa.

"It was just the right place for me, being a peaceful town away from all the problems of Northwestern High," he said.

There was a stop at Potomac State junior college in Keyser, W.Va., for a year before Satchell was introduced two years ago to former Baltimore Colts standout Joe Ehrmann by a friend of Satchell's mother. Ehrmann took Satchell into his Building Men for Others foundation, which assists disadvantaged youths and their families.

Ehrmann, an assistant coach at Gilman, became Satchell's mentor and recommended him to Sea Gulls coach Sherman Wood.

"Leroy is kind, compassionate and he is gentle," said Ehrmann. "He's been dealt some tough cards in life on the streets. ... I just think he's one of the great role models of a student-athlete human being in this whole metroplex.

"He comes to Gilman and works with our team and has attended [Bible] studies with me. He's a spiritual young man."

Satchell joined Salisbury as a sophomore running back, but a shoulder injury limited his play to the final game of the season. This year, the 5-foot-10, 230-pound superback (combination tailback/fullback) has helped the Sea Gulls to a No. 9 ranking among Division III teams. He is coming off a career-high 229 yards rushing and two touchdowns two weeks ago in a 44-0 rout over Kean, N.J.

Last year, Satchell quickly gravitated to the elementary school mentoring program in Salisbury, working closely with Beth Sheller, the parent involvement liaison for Wicomico County public schools.

"We took the team over to Prince Street elementary school last Friday and introduced them all at a pep rally," said Wood. "When Leroy was introduced, 200 kids stood up and cheered him on as if he was Santa Claus or something. He has quite an impact on these kids. It shocked me. It threw me back. I've never seen anything like it. These kids know he's sincere and honest and he cares."

Satchell said he also mentors children in Baltimore at the C.C. Jackson Recreation Center in the Park Heights community, working with them in the summer at football camps.

"But mainly in the city, it's about keeping kids off the streets," said Satchell.

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