Old Mill's Josh Furman started learning about football long before he ever put on a uniform.
"When he was 3 years old, I had PlayStation 2 and we'd be playing 'Madden' or 'College Football' together," said his father, Tyrone Furman, a former Maryland nose guard.
"I'd let him get a controller, and it was just amazing how he was able to pick up football. Other parents used to ask me, 'How did you get Josh to understand football so well?' I just let him play football with me when we played 'Madden.' "
Since then, Josh Furman, 18, has grown into an athletic 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame. He has 4.36-second 40-yard-dash speed and the utmost confidence in his game. He is the go-to guy for No. 1 Old Mill as the Patriots head into tonight's 7:30 Class 4A state football final against Wise of Prince George's County at M&T Bank Stadium.
The senior running back has rushed for 2,272 yards - just 33 shy of the school single-season record - and 31 touchdowns. In the playoffs, he has been especially impressive, running for 615 yards and eight touchdowns in the past two games.
"He's got incredible speed, and he's a very patient runner," said Sherwood coach Pat Cilento, whose team fell to Old Mill, 20-13, in the state semifinals on Furman's 6-yard touchdown run in the last 20 seconds.
"Another thing I liked about him is he was a lot tougher than we thought watching him on film. He fought for those extra yards, and in the game we watched nobody could get a hand on him. We thought he'd go down with arm tackles and stuff like that. He's a legitimate runner."
Old Mill coach Damian Ferragamo said Furman's ability to come through in the clutch just adds to his assets.
"No. 1 is obviously his speed," Ferragamo said. "He's a legitimate 4.36 in the 40, which is lights-out fast. Usually when you get that speed, it's a little 150-, 160-pound running back. So him at 6-3, 200 pounds running that fast, he's really an imposing figure coming at linebackers, defensive backs."
With his speed, vision and toughness, Furman always threatens to break a big play.
"Some running backs like to run around defenders, and some like to run through defenders. I like to do both," Furman said.
Against then-No. 1 Arundel two weeks ago, he carried the ball 42 times, running for 414 yards and six touchdowns in a 58-55 double-overtime win.
Last weekend at defending champion Sherwood, he ran for 201 yards and two scores, including the winning touchdown to cap a 94-second, 82-yard drive.
A little earlier, he had fumbled, leaving the Patriots down 13-12 with three minutes to go, but Furman said he knew the game wasn't over.
"I play off the other team's energy, and I build off the crowd's energy," Furman said. "I like to be in the spotlight. Even though I fumbled and we had three minutes left, I still thought we were going to win the game. It's just me being confident in myself and in my team."
Tonight against Wise (12-1), the Patriots (11-2) will face the toughest defense they've seen all season. The Pumas have posted 10 shutouts and allowed just 29 points.
Still, Furman remains confident the Patriots can come away with their first state championship.
"Their defense is tough," he said. "A lot of people talk about their defense, but Anne Arundel County never gets respect from teams outside this county, and I think Wise hasn't seen a team like us before.
"It's a big game and we're going to have a lot of spotlight on us, but [my teammates] don't have to worry about the pressure because if anybody has the most pressure, then I'd say I do, and I like the pressure."
Furman has plenty to back up that swagger. In addition to playing his best during the playoffs, he spent the past two summers impressing scouts at camps and combines.
At a combine in New Jersey before his junior year, he sprinted 40 yards in 4.36 seconds and then spent the next summer at combines proving that time wasn't a fluke.
That exposure brought the college coaches swarming. He was recruited mostly as a safety, which he will play in college. He excelled at the position last fall and continues to play it when he's not resting from so many carries.
"I like offense," Furman said. "Of course, anybody will tell you offense because of the fame they get by scoring touchdowns, but I really like defense, too. I like tackling people [and] not being tackled."
Among the schools he visited were LSU, Florida, Maryland, West Virginia and Rutgers, but it came down to Michigan and Virginia Tech. Furman said he has made his decision but won't announce it until after he plays in the Maryland Crab Bowl on Dec. 19 at Towson University.