Forest Park's Singletary gets up to speed

Running back has come long way since early days at Douglass

Baltimore City

September 21, 2005|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Sun Reporter

As a freshman at Douglass High three years ago, Alan Singletary struggled the first time he tried to put a football helmet on his head.

"It was scary. It was hard. It was embarrassing. I fumbled with the chin strap. I couldn't adjust it to fit my head right. I couldn't buckle it on right," said Singletary, who had never played organized football. "Trying to figure out how to run with it - that was an experiment. It felt like it was hard to breathe. But once I got used to running with it, it became a part of me. After a while, you don't even know it's there."

Now at Forest Park, everything seems to be second nature to Singletary on the football field. The running back is so elusive, opponents often miss him. Singletary rarely fumbles or misses a catch out of the backfield, "his hands are so good," coach Obie Barnes Sr. said. And it is the once-timid Singletary - having been clocked at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash -who now puts a scare into rival coaches and defenders.

"Oh my God! No. 2 [Singletary] is back? I thought he was a senior, but he was only a junior?" said Poly coach Anthony Knox, upon learning that Singletary - who scored five touchdowns in almost single-handedly defeating Knox's Engineers last year - had returned for a final season.

"He broke off an interception return for a touchdown, a punt return for a touchdown, ran three touchdowns on running plays. ... He just broke out on us," recalled Knox.

The 5-foot-8, 165-pound Singletary, who transferred from Douglass after the Ducks went winless in his sophomore year, has continued to develop, said Barnes, who is in his 29th season as the Foresters' coach.

Although a leader on this year's team, Singletary was not the primary offensive weapon for Barnes last season. Not until midway through the Foresters' eighth game, against Edmondson - when starter Makiha Cooper suffered a career-ending knee injury - did Singletary get switched from fullback to halfback.

"One game later, Poly becomes Alan's breakout game," Barnes said. Against Poly, Singletary ran for three touchdowns and 230 yards on 21 carries. He also scored on 65-yard punt return and a 55-yard interception return.

Singletary ended the year with 1,353 yards and 13 touchdowns, leading the Foresters to the Class 1A state playoffs, where they suffered a first-round loss to eventual state champion Dunbar.

Singletary said he spent much of the summer doing nearly 200 pushups every other night, lifting weights and running the bleachers at Forest Park. Singletary, who bench-presses 265 pounds, also attended a three-day football camp at the University of Virginia, where he improved his ball-handling abilities.

One of the toughest drills Forest Park running backs coach Obie Barnes Jr. has for Singletary is where different linemen take turns hitting him while he holds onto the ball with his eyes closed.

"It's a balance drill, and he just sends guys at me, one after another," Singletary said. "If I drop the ball, I'm in trouble. So far, I haven't fumbled."

Not bad for a player who was fumbling with his chin strap just three years ago.

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