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May 20, 2008

TEMPLE, Texas A minute or two is all it takes.

During that brief span, it becomes obvious the player on the video is something special.

Lache Seastrunk (pronounced Lake), a 5-foot-10, 180-pound running back at Temple High School, is so special he'll likely become an Internet legend on par with Noel Devine when his highlights start circulating on the Web.

Seastrunk averaged nearly 12 yards per carry while rushing for 1,532 yards on 129 attempts last season. He scored 19 touchdowns, with 11 of those covering at least 45 yards. Those numbers aren't by-products of a dominant team, padded stats or a wide-open offense. Temple, which runs the Wing T, was 7-4 last season. Seastrunk had 10 or fewer carries in five games and never had more than 21. Speed undoubtedly is his greatest asset. He ran an automatic-timed 10.37 in the 100-meter dash this spring.

And he's only a sophomore.

"He can go into a pile and he can get out of a pile," says Temple High coach Bryce Monsen, a stocky former college linebacker. "That's not coaching. That's between him and the good Lord.

"I saw him tightrope the sidelines with his right hand (extended) out to keep from falling and up on his toes to stay in-bounds, and he still outran everybody on the field."

Over the years, Texas has produced some of football's greatest running backs. Included in the state's distinguished alumni are Heisman Trophy recipients Doak Walker, Earl Campbell and Billy Sims, and several more that could have or should have won it, like Joe Washington, Greg Pruitt, Eric Dickerson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson.

"I've got to work harder," Seastrunk said. "I want to be the best. I don't want to be with the bunch. I want to separate myself. My mother always told me not to settle for being good. Try to be great."

Seastrunk might be Texas' next great running back.

"We hope so," said Bob McQueen, an incredibly successful coach at Temple who came out of retirement a few years ago to assist Monsen. "He's barely 16 years old, and he has a lot out in front of him. To say he's the next great one we'll have to wait and see. He's special."

LACHE SUPERIOR
Here's a game-by-game breakdown of Lache Seastrunk's 2007 season:
Opponent Att-Yards-TD Score
South Garland7-112 -2 (75 and 20 yards)W, 21-17
Round Rock McNeil17-225-2 (56, 66)L, 38-28
Abilene Cooper12-43-1 (10)L, 21-19
Round Rock Westwood8-93-2 (45, 14)L, 27-17
Bryan10-131-1 (80)W, 21-13
A&M Consolidated9-112-1 (50)W, 35-34
Belton9-164-1 (75)W, 56-0
Harker Heights21-222-3 (55, 24, 2)W, 45-42
Killeen Shoemaker15-170 -2 (18, 33)W, 54-19
Killeen Ellison8-113-3 (48, 8, 48)W, 39-7
*Pflugerville13-147-1 (80)L, 34-31
Totals129-1,532-197-4
NOTE: * - denotes playoff game

LIKE OLD TIMES

In Temple - a city of 60,000 located 65 miles north of Austin - high school football is important. That much can plainly be seen from Interstate 35.

Just east of the highway sits Wildcat Stadium, a 13,000-seat monument to Temple football that features chair-back seats, a field-turf playing surface and a huge press box accessible by elevator.

Gary Garner, a 59-year-old former Booster Club president and retail advertising manager of the Temple Daily Telegram, has had season tickets for decades. For years, he thought he'd never again see anybody like Kenneth Davis, a powerful runner who led Temple to the 1979 state championship. Davis attended TCU, where he finished fifth in the 1984 Heisman Trophy voting, and had a successful nine-year career in the NFL.

"I'm one of those people who like to sit up high at Wildcat Stadium so I can see the entire field and how the plays develop," Garner says. "You'd see Kenneth Davis go left or right, find a hole or get a crease, and once he got in the open field, he could do wonders. I thought as far as high school goes that he was the best I'd ever seen.

"But now we have one coming that reminds me a whole lot of Kenneth Davis except he's a lot faster."

Time can compromise a memory, and even the most objective fan is subject to exaggeration. People often exalt the here-and-now over the how-it-was, which helps explain why some people argue that Kobe is better than Jordan.

But even Davis praises Seastrunk.

"I had a couple of opportunities to watch him play," said Davis, now football coach and athletic director at Bishop Dunne High School in Dallas. "He's a tremendous athlete. He has incredible acceleration from a dead stop, probably the quickest I've ever seen in any kid.

"I think he has the ability and potential to be a great back. The sky's the limit for him. I'm not sure how good a blocker or receiver he is, but when you look at pure speed, there is no finer back in the state."

TEXAS 10
Olin Buchanan's list of the top 10 running backs in Texas history:
1. Earl Campbell, Tyler
2. Eric Dickerson, Sealy
3. LaDainian Tomlinson, Waco
4. Billy Sims, Hooks
5. Doak Walker, Dallas
6. Thurman Thomas, Houston
7. Priest Holmes, San Antonio
8. Adrian Peterson, Palestine
9. Joe Washington, Port Arthur
10. Greg Pruitt, Houston
Olin Buchanan's take on the top 10 running backs in Texas history is based on their high school, college and pro careers. Buchanan covered high school and college football in Texas for 25 years before moving to Rivals.com.
McQueen and Monsen agree. The congenial and grandfatherly McQueen, who was 276-86-9 in a high school career that spanned five decades at Temple and nearby Mexia, sent more than 100 players to college. The best were Davis and Ray Rhodes, who later was coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers. He said Seastrunk has similar ability.

"Usually, if you get one like that in a career, you're very, very fortunate. I've been around three," McQueen says. "If (Seastrunk) improves in some areas, he could be as good as any of them. He needs a more complete understanding of the game.

"Our backs have to block, and he has really come on this spring with his blocking. And he needs to work on catching the football."

Monsen also has seen his share of great football players. The son of a coach who won 10 state championships in Wyoming and Utah, he has been around football his whole life. He played linebacker at BYU in 1983, '85 and '86, but missed the 1984 national championship season because he transferred to Snow College (Utah) to get more playing experience.

"I regret that every day," he says. "But (then-BYU coach) LaVell Edwards said I needed to get experience and then to come back."

A successful defensive coordinator and head coach in Utah before joining McQueen's staff several years ago, Monsen suspected he might have something special when Seastrunk long-jumped 20-9 3/4 in the eighth grade.

Those suspicions proved correct in last year's season opener when Seastrunk rushed for 112 yards on seven carries and scored touchdowns on runs of 75 and 20 yards in a 21-17 victory over South Garland. On both touchdowns, he turned the corner and blew by safety Joseph Ibiloye, a four-star prospect who signed with Oklahoma in February.

"He was in a foot race on the sideline (with Ibiloye) and outran him to the end zone," Monsen says. "He has extremely powerful legs. He's a freak of nature. It's all God-given."

Annie Ma Harris, Seastrunk's grandmother, may be due partial credit.

"When I was little, I always stayed in trouble," Seastrunk said. "My grandmother got tired of whipping me and made me stand in the corner on one leg. It seemed like I'd be on one leg for hours."

Maybe that's the secret of his success.

"You say that and every kid in Temple is going to be standing on one leg," McQueen says. "I might try it, too."

LOOKING AHEAD

Regardless of the source, Seastrunk's speed and power should serve him well.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2010
Lache Seastrunk would be on an early list a very early list of the top 10 players for the class of 2010. Here are the 10:
DT Todd Chandler, 6-1/290, Miami Northwestern
OT Robert Crisp, 6-8/293, Chapel Hill (N.C.) High
OT Seantrel Henderson, 6-8/301, Minneapolis Cretin-Derham Hall
DE Jackson Jeffcoat, 6-5/230, Plano (Texas) Plano West
CB Lamarcus Joyner, 5-8/166, Miami Southwest
RB Marcus Lattimore, 5-11/210, Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes
LB Chris Martin, 6-4/214, Oakland Bishop O'Dowd
WR Ted Meline, 6-2/171, Davie (Fla.) Westlake Prep
RB Lache Seastrunk, 5-10/180, Temple (Texas) High
DT Jeffrey Whitaker, 6-3/285, Warner Robins (Ga.) High
"Oklahoma State saw three plays and was ready to offer a scholarship," Monsen said. "Three or four series into the game, and they said, 'We've seen enough, coach.' "

Seastrunk already has received mail from Kansas, Florida, Iowa, LSU and Texas, among others. He says LSU and Texas are his top choices for now, but he's also interested in Oklahoma and Miami.

"If he stays healthy and does everything he's supposed to do, he will have a great opportunity to play at the next level," Davis said. "How will he do over time? That's his biggest challenge.

"If he keeps his head screwed on right, do what he's asked and gets down on his knees at night, then I think in a few years we can look back and truly appreciate not only what he's done in high school but in his life. I hope we will."

Early indications are that won't be a problem. Seastrunk already has faced the obstacles of an at-risk youth and handled them well. His father hasn't been part of his life. His mother hasn't been there much of the time, either.

"She wasn't around for a while," he said. "She made some wrong decisions in life."

Seastrunk was raised by his grandmother, and received sound guidance from an uncle and from a cousin, Terrell Jackson, a wide receiver at Buffalo. "He (Jackson) was always telling me to stay focused and don't let anyone get you off-track," Seastrunk said.

Monsen says Seastrunk is an honor roll student who works diligently in the classroom and weight room.

"When the Lord was giving out athletic ability, Lache was at the front of the line," Monsen says in classic coach-speak. "When the Lord was making good kids, Lache was at the front of that line, too."

But even the nicest youngsters can be led astray at times, especially great athletes at an impressionable age. Seastrunk says he tries to avoid trouble like he does tacklers.

"It's just not in my heart or character to get in trouble," Seastrunk said. "I'd rather just go home."

If he stays patient for a couple of years, his legs will take him anywhere he wants to go.

The video makes that obvious.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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