Glenelg senior running back Brandon Dever, who emerged this year as a leader off the field, rushed for 1,467 yards and scored 17 touchdowns

Breakout Gladiator

Football

November 15, 2006|By Alejandro Danois | Alejandro Danois,Special to the Sun

Glenelg senior running back Brandon Dever is savoring every moment of his breakout season. After all, he knows all too well how quickly one misstep can change everything.

Last year, in the team's second preseason scrimmage against Brunswick, Dever ran the ball off tackle for a 20-yard gain before a defender tackled him from behind.

Unable to rise from the turf, Dever couldn't feel any sensation in one of his legs and had to be helped off the field by the training staff. On the sideline, he lay on his back and was instructed to elevate his leg. Attempting to do so, he was stung by intense pain in his hamstring.

The pulled hamstring kept him out of Glenelg's first game that season. Against Howard the next week, he played three snaps at outside linebacker. Dever started the next game but was not fully healthy until the fifth week of the season. Used primarily at defensive end, he finished with few carries as a running back.

The Gladiators, who started 6-0, lost their final four games, including a 42-21 defeat to Potomac in a first-round playoff game.

"Guys started getting hurt, the team started bickering and the season fell apart," Dever said.

Before the team began working out in preparation for this season, first-year coach Butch Schaffer sat down with Dever for a chat.

"He told me that I had to prove that I was going to be his starting running back," Dever said of Schaffer, who came to Glenelg after two seasons at South Carroll. "He also mentioned that all of his starting running backs in the past had reached 1,000 yards or more."

Motivated to prove that he was worthy of Schaffer's expectations, Dever, who was Glenelg's short-yardage specialist as a sophomore, was also stirred to set an example for his teammates.

"I'm a senior, and it's my responsibility to lead the team through my own personal example," Dever said. "That means not putting my teammates down when they do something wrong, but picking them up. I thought that would solve the chemistry problems we had last year."

Dever is also picking up his team with his performances on the field this season. He has rushed for 1,467 yards and 17 touchdowns on 207 carries, averaging 7.1 yards per carry.

In the Gladiators' 28-21 double-overtime victory over Atholton in September, Dever rushed for 219 yards on 32 carries and scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

A month later, in a 35-12 rout of Hammond, he ran off tackle on the first play from scrimmage, sprinted through an open lane and side-stepped the safety for a 40-yard gain. Dever finished the game with 225 yards on 26 carries.

"Brandon attacks the line of scrimmage and finishes off his runs with the same consistent effort each time he touches the ball," Schaffer said.

Dever displayed versatility against Mount Hebron.

Lined up at the inside slot of the Gladiators' five-receiver set in the second quarter, Dever ran a fly pattern and snatched quarterback Billy West's pass away from the safety who had covered the play well. For good measure, Dever dragged the defender 5 yards downfield for a 44-yard reception.

"Brandon is our heart and soul and a tremendous leader on and off the field," Schaffer said. "He's a throwback player who gives everything he has on every play."

At every home game, the Gladiators sprint onto the field after the band has finished playing the national anthem, slamming into one another and jumping around in a ceremonial ritual of organized mayhem.

Within seconds, the players gather around Dever, who bellows, "How y'all feel?" He is met with a thunderous collective response: "Fired up!"

When he is not on the field, his voice still can be heard throughout the year at numerous Glenelg athletic events. Earlier in the fall, he was on the sideline during a frigid evening, supporting the girls soccer team on its senior night. He cheered as he would a teammate's game-saving interception.

"I appreciate when other athletes come out to our games when they could be doing other things, so I like to go and cheer for them," Dever said.

As his high school playing career winds down, Dever is thankful that he has had a chance to prove what he can do as a ball carrier.

"My family has spent so much time supporting me and watching me do what I love," he said. "And of course the big men [on the offensive line] -- Jamar Watson, Pat Black, Bobby Coover, Jake Issacs and Eric Hutchinson -- open some big holes for me to run through. They're like my second family."

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