Indian River football coach Cory Marsell has had the pleasure of coaching several great running backs in his tenure as the Warriors head man, saying all of them had unique qualities.
But when Marsell compares Darrius Bryant favorably to perhaps the greatest of them all, Curtis Dukes, you know hes talking about a special player.
Dukes, who terrorized Section 10 defenses while at Indian River and has gone on to play for Penn State University, was a physical freak at 230 pounds who could run over people as well as running past them with his speed.
Bryant is more of a finesse runner, weighing in at 175 pounds, but possessing that uncanny ability to make defenders miss and to gain huge chunks of yardage without ever taking a direct hit.
This season, Bryant concluded his three-year Indian River career with a spectacular season, earning him Times All-North Section 3 MVP honors. His numbers speak for themselves 1,261 rushing yards on 95 carries, for an unbelievable average of 13.3 yards every time he touched the ball.
He scored 14 touchdowns running, with six of 50 yards or more, including TD scampers of 90, 82 and 80 yards, and averaged 37.5 yards per touchdown.
He also caught passes for 423 more yards, averaging nearly 30 yards per catch, and scored three more touchdowns.
For his varsity career, Bryant averaged an amazing 12.9 yards from scrimmage.
People talk about a runner having a chance to score on every carry, Marsell said. Darrius and Curtis sure fall into that category. Runners like that dont come around too often, especially in high school up here.
Playing in the tough Section 3 Class A American Division along with the likes of Whitesboro, Watertown, Carthage and New Hartford, Bryant was a touchdown waiting to happen.
With 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash, he was the perfect fit for Marsells modified Wing-T offense. Whether he was in motion coming off the wing, or taking direct handoffs, Bryant had Warrior fans holding their breath every play wondering whether he would break off a spectacular run.
Looking back on a season to remember, Bryant said he is satisfied how things turned out, but he thinks it could have been even better.
I wanted to run for over 1,000 yards, help us win a conference title (which Indian River did), and be the All-North MVP, Bryant said. But after watching film of the games, there were a lot more yards and touchdowns out there that I didnt get.
Marsell said it is in Bryants humble, understated nature to never take credit for anything he does. For Darrius, it was all about team first and how he could help us win.
But Bryants contributions, which included playing a lot of defensive back for the first time in his career, were essential in helping the Warriors to a 7-2 overall record, including 5-0 in conference, and another spot in the Class A semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion Nottingham.
We came up short of winning the sectionals and thats frustrating, Bryant said. But I think weve really put Indian River on the map since we came back to Section 3 and made teams take notice how good we are.
Marsell said one of the things hes enjoyed most about coaching Bryant is he always wants to have fun. You can see it in the way he practices and the way he plays. He plays with great enthusiasm, even though you may not really notice because hes so quiet.
Bryant said hes not the rah-rah type, but he has taken on a greater leadership role the past few years. Ive tried to show the young guys what it takes to succeed at the varsity level and how to win, he said.
Although he already had two superb seasons (1,116 yards, 16 TDs as sophomore, 934 yards, 9 TDs as junior), Bryant said he learned a lot more about running the ball this season.
Mainly patience, and how to set up blocks and read my blocks, he said. I had great chemistry with my line this season.
Bryant also became a more physical runner this season. Despite his outstanding speed, he knew that sometimes he just had to take on a defender one-on-one.
He learned how to run through tackles better instead of around them, Marsell said. In that Nottingham game I would say he got more yards after contact that in any game this season.
Marsell also tried to get the ball in Bryants hands more often in the passing game. The more times he touched the ball, Marsell said, the more chances we had to score.
Bryant hopes to play college ball, and he is looking at SUNY Cortland, St. John Fisher and perhaps the University at Albany, where last years All-North MVP, Rayshan Shakur-Clark, redshirted this season.
He probably wouldnt be an every down back, Marsell said. But what school wouldnt want a kid with that kind of scoring ability making plays for them.