High-SchoolFootball: The Huddle

The Huddle: Developing into a team leader

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
9:30
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Brooks HaackDavide De Pas for ESPN.comQB Brooks Haack will be a Ragin' Cajun at Louisiana-Lafayette next year after leading the Katy (Texas) offense since his sophomore season.
The huddle is a sacred place in football; one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success. This week's edition marks the final installment of the season for the series. For the complete series, click here.

Senior quarterback Brooks Haack of Katy (Texas) has developed into a leader over the course of his three years as a starter. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder is committed to Louisiana-Lafayette on a football scholarship. Haack is a 3.82 student with designs on majoring in sports marketing.

Haack threw for 1,531 yards, 17 touchdowns and only three interceptions as a junior and led the Katy attack this year with more than 2,200 yards in the air and 31 scoring passes while completing nearly 60 percent of his throws with just four interceptions. Katy went 12-1 and reached the Class 5A regional quarterfinals.

This signal-caller's development into a true team leader took both time and some support from veteran teammates.

"From a leadership standpoint, during my sophomore year to my junior year to my senior year, I feel like I grew a lot as a leader and had to step up a lot," said Haack. "My first start was my sophomore year in the state semifinal game. I was just 16-years-old in front of a lot of people and I had seniors in the huddle, and I just really couldn't take charge. I felt like it wasn't my turn."

As a sophomore and junior Haack relied on older teammates Shep Klinke and Sam Holl, who are now playing on the offensive line at Texas A&M and safety at Baylor, respectively.

"They're two people that really stood out for me in my mind. Shep was on the offensive side, and he was always just like, 'We've got you. Just play within yourself in our offense and we'll take care of everything else,'" said Haack.

"Sam, from a defensive standpoint, was just great saying, like, 'Hey, you just get the ball into the end zone a couple of times and we will take care of the defense.' They said just do your job, and that just made me feel a lot better about myself and my abilities to lead the offense."

This past season, Haack found himself playing the roles that Klinke and Holl did for him, only Haack did it for freshman running back teammate Rodney Anderson, who replaced injured starter Adam Taylor in the first game of the year.

"Adam Taylor got hurt after having a breakout season the year before and he was supposed to have an even better season this year," said Haack. "Then Rodney got moved to starting running back. I just had to go up to him and tell him, 'Hey, you're doing good,' because he's 14 and playing Texas high school 5A football."

The fast freshman tallied 18 total touchdowns and gained more than 1,300 total yards.

"Rodney had a great season, and I think that my leadership and that of the team helped him out with that," said Haack. "By the time that I was a senior, I felt in command of the offense and I felt as if I knew how to handle everything from an offensive and defensive standpoint."

ROLE MODEL: Matte Haack, sister -- "That's got to be mys sister, Matte. She's 21. She'll text me before every game just to say 'good luck,' and, 'you know what you need to do.' After a good win or after a loss, she's the first one that I see. I know that she's been through it because she's been at the highest level in college because she plays softball. Freshman year they went to the national championships at the University of Arizona and lost to UCLA, and then she transferred to the University of Louisiana. She's done it all. She's given me her knowledge of how I should handle myself as a person on the field and off the field."

The Huddle: Overcoming off-field obstacles

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
11:57
AM ET
Duke JohnsonKynon Codrington/ESPNHSMiami Norland (Miami) running back Randy "Duke" Johnson scored five touchdowns to lead the Vikings to their first state title since 2002.
The huddle is a sacred place in football; one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Star senior running back Randy "Duke" Johnson of FAB 50 No. 7 Miami Norland (Miami) discusses how he overcame adversity in life in order to succeed on the field and in the classroom. A 5-foot-9, 190-pounder, Johnson has committed to Miami on a football scholarship. A 3.0 student, Johnson wants to major in sports management with an eye on athletic directing and coaching. Earlier this fall, we profiled Johnson's path to stardom in the wake of losing his father to a battle with cancer.

Johnson helped fuel Norland's 38-0 win over Wakulla (Crawfordville, Fla.) in the Class 5A state championship game with 266 total yards and five touchdowns in the final. The 15-0 campaign ended in glory with the school's first state title since 2002.

But the truly inspired part of Norland's journey has been the obstacles Johnson and many of his teammates have overcome off the field.

"We have a lot of players on our team, me being one of them, who have had to overcome a lot of adversity at home and things like that," said Johnson. "We pretty much use the off-the-field things to help us to strive to get where we want to be."

One of Johnson's teammates comes home to nothing to eat. Others, to their electricity having been cut off.

"I have a teammate who doesn't have anywhere to stay, so he jumps from house to house, and that just drives him to want to succeed more," said Johnson. "There are a lot of struggles that people are going through, but they want to be great."

Johnson used to live in a rough area, but his mother, Cassandra Mitchell, was determined "to get him out of there," said Johnson.

"She has the same drive that I have, and she thrived to get us out of that neighborhood and to get us in a better situation. That was coming into my ninth grade year of high school," said Johnson.

The 18-year-old Johnson seeks to impart some wisdom to younger students enduring similar circumstances.

"Don't let the struggles hamper you; let them help you," said Johnson. "Let them be a reason that you want to succeed. Let them make you want to work hard, and to make the grade in class and to get to that next level so that you don't put your kids through that and you can help your family."

ROLE MODEL: Cassandra Mitchell, mother "Growing up the way that we did, she always made it seem like everything was good, but I was too young to notice. But as I got older, I started to realize that things were rough, but she helped other people. No matter what, she was just a very caring person. When people didn't have anywhere to stay, she would let them stay with her. She just kept a smile on our faces and on her face for the sake of myself, my sister and my brother."

The Huddle: The next play is never promised

December, 12, 2011
12/12/11
9:33
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TBD EditorPatrick Miller/Wood FootballArchbishop Wood's (Warminster, Pa.) Desmon Peoples is on his way to run for Rutgers next year.
The huddle is a sacred place in football; one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Senior running back Desmon Peoples of FAB 50 No. 22 Archbishop Wood (Warminster, Pa.) bounced back from a season-ending injury in his junior year to pace the Vikings' dangerous offensive attack this fall. Peoples rushed for 178 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns in Wood's 70-14 drubbing of Allentown Central Catholic (Allentown, Pa.) this past weekend, earning a place in Friday's PIAA AAA state title game. The 5-foot-8, 175-pounder is a 3.0 student committed to play for Rutgers, where he plans to major in business.

A little more than a year ago, after logging 1,360 rushing yards (with an 8.0 yards per carry average) and 25 total TDs in 11 games played, Peoples broke his left foot in the Philadelphia Catholic League championship game, forcing him to watch the Vikings' final three games from the sidelines.

"That was a pretty hard time," said Peoples. "I just didn't like the feeling of watching my team play without me. I wanted to contribute. But I never lost faith."

Some advice from a player who had been in his shoes before went a long way.

"I actually had a conversation with [Syracuse product] Curtis Brinkley, who plays for the San Diego Chargers, and he had a similar injury to mine," said Peoples of the former West Catholic (Philadelphia) star. "He just encouraged me that all that I needed to do was to put my all into therapy and to concentrate on getting my strength back and that everything would be fine."

That's exactly what Peoples did, as he dedicated this past offseason to a grueling regimen that included work in the pool and on the track.

"I just worked really hard and I came back strong for this year," said Peoples. "I just felt confident that I could do the same thing if not better."

Having overcome a scary setback at a crucial time in his playing career and in the midst of the recruiting process, he's now in a position to provide counsel as Brinkley did for him.

"Play every game and every play like it's your last," Peoples said, "because you never know when something bad might happen and you could be out for a while. So go 100 percent every chance that you get, because the next play isn't promised."

ROLE MODEL: Darrien Peoples, father -- "My dad has always been the big factor in my life. He always motivated me to be the best that I can be on and off the field. He's just the epitome of a hard-working man."

The Huddle: When the season abruptly ends

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
10:53
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video The huddle is a sacred place in football; one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Senior wide receiver Raphael "Ralph" Andrades of Lincoln (Tallahassee, Fla.) discusses how it felt when his season and career ended unexpectedly. A 6-foot-1, 185-pounder, Andrades has a 3.7 grade average and designs on majoring in law or sports medicine and holds scholarship offers from Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Stanford and Vanderbilt.

Expectations ran high for the defending Class 4A state champion Trojans, particularly in the eyes of Andrades, whose 35 receptions, 750 yards and 12 touchdowns had helped drive the squad to such success in 2010. Andrades' numbers were good at 38 catches for 850 yards and 13 touchdowns this fall, but that didn't matter to him as much as the season's finish that came in the first round of the playoffs.

The Trojans lost their second game of the season, but ran off eight consecutive victories before being upended, 39-29, by Fleming Island (Orange Park, Fla.) in the playoffs.

"We'd start off on our own 10 or on our own 20, and we weren't really moving the ball at all on offense. I could sort of see it in my teammates eyes that we were getting frustrated," said Andrades of the recent playoff loss. "You could tell that the team didn't come ready to play. It was really hard to keep the team calm, being in the playoffs."

It was not until the Trojans had returned home that everyone realized, particularly the seniors, that their seasons and prep careers were truly over.

"After the game, we take the buses back to the school, and coach puts us on these benches and talks to us after every game. He talks about next week and the next game coming up. That's when it hit me, that it was over," said Andrades, whose Trojans lost a first-round game for the first time since 1996.

"He was basically telling the seniors that this was the end of our legacy, and that now we have to move on with our lives and to start our offseason workouts. Honestly, coming off of the state championship season, our team thought that everything was going to be given to us. Like it would come easily. We learned that as a team, you have to be all-in with your efforts as a team to get where you want to be."

ROLE MODEL: Jesus Christ: "Honestly, without him, I would be nothing. I know that I have to play for him each and every game because he's the one who gave me my strength and abilities."

The Huddle: Leading while losing

November, 28, 2011
11/28/11
12:18
PM ET
Coppell HS DefenseTravis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comCoppell (Texas) enjoyed a strong 2010 but struggled to stay healthy this season. Team leader David Busby stayed positive despite the disappointment.
The huddle is a sacred place in football, one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Senior cornerback and safety David Busby of Coppell (Coppell, Texas) explains how he found the positives in the course of a disappointing season. The 6-foot, 180-pounder carries a weighted grade point average over 4.0 and he’s considering an engineering degree in college. Busby has scholarship offers from North Texas, Utah State and Wyoming, as well as considerations from Air Force and Navy.

After a breakout junior campaign in which he had 85 tackles, seven interceptions and 14 pass breakups on a 13-1 team that made it to the state quarterfinals, Busby had high hopes for an even better senior season.

But the Cowboys struggled to a 6-4 season, losing their starting quarterback to injury in the sixth game and their backup shortly after. As a team leader on and off the field, Busby, who finished with 70 tackles and six picks, had to fight past the disappointing results and find value in the season.

Long before his senior season had ended with a 28-7 loss to Keller Central (Fort Worth, Texas), Busby looked inward for confidence and direction.

"I honestly had to just look ahead and try to do what's best for my team and not worry so much about all of the pressure and the attention that might be on me," said Busby. "I tried to deal with my team first and just try to perform and I just figured that all of the other stuff will come along. I tried to focus on my leadership skills and finishing strong. That was our main emphasis -- finishing strong and never giving up."

Busby became conscious of the fact that he was a role model being watched by younger players, such as rising junior safety Jacob Logan, who will be a senior team captain next year.

“Jacob's dealing with the same things that I did,” said Busby. “Starting as a sophomore and adjusting to the atmosphere. Next, he's going to be a team captain his senior year and he has to lead them and try to lift them up. I had to watch the way that I acted around Jacob and always tried to have a positive attitude because if I would have had a negative attitude then he would have definitely had a negative attitude and that would have carried on throughout the team."

In the end, the difficult season was a rewarding experience for Busby.

"I learned how to become a better vocal leader, to lead with my actions, and learned how to lift up our team even though we were going through tough times and to try to take the team through adversity," he said.

ROLE MODEL: James Busby, father "Teaching me that life isn't always fair, and that you have to deal with the cards that you are dealt."

The Huddle: Finding the right fit for college

November, 21, 2011
11/21/11
12:32
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video
The huddle is a sacred place in football, one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Senior quarterback Patton Robinette of Maryville (Maryville, Tenn.) discusses how he navigated the complicated recruiting process. A 6-foot-6, 205-pounder, Robinette chose the University of North Carolina over scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Memphis, Northwestern, Purdue, Southern Mississippi and the University of Central Florida.

The signal-caller led Maryville to last year's Class 6A state title with a mark of 14-1, and through 13 games his Rebels haven’t lost and are the No. 20 team in this week's POWERADE FAB 50 ESPNHS Team Rankings.

Finding the right fit for both a program and the college experience was paramount to Robinette. As far as electing to attend North Carolina?

"Three things did it for me," said Robinette, “the overall feel, the academics and the atmosphere."

"At the end of the day, if you don't like the feel of the place that you're going or the campus, the coaching staff and the people that you meet there, then it's just not going to work," he added. "You've got to go to the campus and be around the players. Make sure to visit classes and try to go through the college experience in its entirety to feel what's best for you."

Robinette is considering a major in the medical field. "Probably chemistry, and that fit really well with me, because I think North Carolina has a medical program that is ranked No. 4 in the nation," he said. "They do a lot of research medicine and sports medicine and those are things that I'm very interested in. That really appealed to me, because football is going to end sometime, and you need something to fall back on. There is nothing better to fall back on than a great degree from a top quality school."

Robinette also felt at ease with his campus surroundings at North Carolina, from the campus size to its general facilities and his teammates.

"You've got to like the people who are on the team and to get along with them and be able to interact with them positively," said Robinette. "Also, there are the guys who are coming in with you, so you've got to have a positive relationship with them as well."

Of course, none of that would have mattered to Robinette if he didn't feel as if he could contribute on the field.

"They do a lot of Pro-Style stuff with progression reads, and that appealed to me and the ball-control aspect of it," said Robinette. "North Carolina hasn't really been known for football for a while. It’s always been a basketball school. But they've started to move things in the right direction and they're not a program that you can overlook."

ROLE MODEL: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts "I've seen all the things that he's done for the University of Tennessee. That's all people talk about around here is what he's done. He puts his offense into the correct calls and knows how to make plays. He's definitely someone to look up to."

The Huddle: Learning how to lead

November, 14, 2011
11/14/11
9:28
AM ET
The huddle is a sacred place in football; one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Senior nose guard and defensive end Ashton Henderson of Jenks (Jenks, Okla.) discusses his acceptance of the need to improve as a player and a leader. A 6-foot-1, 307-pound B-average student, Henderson is being recruited by Arkansas, Louisville and Tulsa, among others.

Henderson learned that a focus on self-improvement is a defining characteristic as a team leader. A year ago, Henderson totaled 72 tackles, six sacks and a pair of pass blocks and fumble recoveries to lead his Trojans to a 13-1 record and the Class 6A state finals.

This year’s Trojans are 9-2 and in the midst of another state playoff run and face Santa Fe (Edmond, Okla.) this coming weekend in the second round. Although neither Henderson's numbers, nor his team's overall record is what it was a year ago, the senior has looked directly in the mirror.

"When things happen wrong, since you're a team captain, and because of your athletic abilities, people look directly at you," said Henderson.

"So, to me, I honestly believe that it can be an advantage and also a disadvantage being a captain," said Henderson. "When things are going right, everybody is happy. You're under pressure, but you're blessed at the same time."

Henderson chooses to look inward.

"Sometimes, if things go wrong, and the coaches feel like you're not producing, what you do is you focus on yourself," said Henderson. "You can't change others unless you change yourself first. So maybe you need to break down film on yourself to see what you can do to become a better athlete."

Beyond that, "You encourage your teammates. When they need a foot in their behind, you provide that. Sometimes, all it takes is a slap on the back, but you have to learn the difference," said Henderson.

"It's a team sport and everybody has to do their job. I want to get better as a player, but at the same time, I want to make everybody around me better emotionally, mentally and physically."

ROLE MODEL: Warren Sapp, former NFL great "Because he played defensive tackle, and no matter who blocks him or how many people tried to block him, he was always causing havoc."

The Huddle: Remember to have fun

November, 7, 2011
11/07/11
11:28
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xTom Hauck/ESPNHSBart Houston of De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) reminded his team to have fun on the field despite an early loss this season.
The huddle is a sacred place in football; one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Senior quarterback Bart Houston of No. 20 De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) talks about refocusing his team following a rare loss. The greatest lesson learned from a loss, said Houston, might just be to remember to enjoy the game and not let it get too serious. A 6-foot-4, 215-pounder who has committed to call signals for the University of Wisconsin, Houston is a straight-A student with plans on majoring in chemical engineering or business.

Over the course of last season, Houston totaled 1,922 passing yards for 20 touchdowns, and rushed for 11 more scores to pace the Spartans to a 14-0 record and an Open Division state title.

But a cross-country trip to St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) early this season ended the Spartans' winning ways and with a 30-6 loss.

"Total yards wasn't much more than 100. They really kicked our butts," said Houston. "I didn't do too well. It was the first varsity start that I experienced a loss. But my stats didn't matter so much to me."

What mattered more was to get his Spartans back on track, which the team leader did by immediately engaging a pair of teammates in an inclusive and positive way on the flight back to California.

"We were flying back home, and I turned to my best friends, Justin Walker, a defensive and offensive lineman, and Trevor Christiansen, an outside linebacker, and I told them, 'This year is going to change,'" said Houston. "I told them that we've been treating this game too much like a job. I said,'let's go out there and have some fun out there again.'"

The Spartans responded the following weekend with a convincing win -- their first of six straight victories.

ROLE MODEL: Fred Houston, grandfather. "He's an ex-football coach, and he has just always been there for me. He's the man that I want to be."

The Huddle: Choosing the right college

October, 31, 2011
10/31/11
11:09
AM ET
The huddle is a sacred place in football; one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Senior Kendyl Taylor, a versatile running back and receiver for the No. 19 team in the POWERADE FAB 50, Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.), talks about the process of narrowing down the many schools that were recruiting him in order to determine the right fit. The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder has committed to the University of Washington, and had been pursued by Notre Dame, University of Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford, Michigan State and Washington State.

Taylor's junior year saw him tally 48 receptions for 713 yards and five touchdowns and 784 rushing yards and nine more scores to pace the Huskies during a 15-0, Class 5A state championship season. This season's Huskies have won their first ten games, and Taylor, a 3.3 grade average student, already knows the college at which he will play football next fall.

Taylor outlined four factors that helped him to settle on the University of Washington: The sincerity of the coaching staff, how he as a player fit into the program's plans, education and campus environment.

No. 1: "Honesty and sincerity among the coaches is the first thing, and not just with head coach Steve Sarkisian, but among all of his coaches. For me, the best way to determine that was in their eyes and how they talk. You can kind of observe the difference between when someone is trying to play themselves up or pump themselves up and when someone is more down to earth."

No. 2: "What kind of scheme the football program plays. For me, that was how the Huskies' offense best suited me in how I fit into their plans and how they play. Washington runs a pro-style offense, which I've been great in since Pop Warner. With my versatility, I felt as if their system would allow me to continue to be dangerous and to play running back and wide receiver there."

No. 3: "Education. Washington is very high on that. I took note of the class rankings within certain majors and they were all pretty high in the country. I'm still not sure what my major will be, probably business marketing. I felt like I had a lot of variety and a lot to choose from. That's what stuck out for me."

No. 4: "The campus environment. The campus is about a three-hour flight from my home, so I needed to feel as if I could be comfortable being away from home for four years there. It's a really green campus with a lot of water around that grabbed my attention. It's calm and not too crazy. The coaches were family-oriented, so it seems like they'll take care of us there. It rains up there and gets a little cold, but I wanted to get out of the heat and experience a change in atmosphere."

Role Models: Kerry and Keith Taylor, brother and father. "Kerry is actually with the Minnesota Vikings on the practice roster as a linebacker. He's been through some highs and lows and always worked hard and battled. He's taught me a lot of my receiver skills. My father played in the NFL, and taught me as much as I need to know. He doesn't fill my head with lies."

The Huddle: Turning loss into leadership

October, 24, 2011
10/24/11
11:30
AM ET
The huddle is a sacred place in football; one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Senior running back Randy Johnson, Jr. of Norland (Miami) talks about how he has turned the passing of his father into a source of inspiration and motivation, a process that has also transformed him into a proud team leader. The shifty and speedy 5-foot-9, 190-pounder has committed to become a 'Cane at Miami and stay local.

Randy Johnson Sr. had left a major impression on his son, Randy Jr., before he died of Leukemia nearly four years ago when the younger Johnson was an eighth-grader.

"He supported me in everything that I do. He used to come to all of my games and he would watch me in in all of my games," said Randy Jr., now 18. "He would take me to all of the University of Miami games, also."

Randy Jr. has carried his father's memory with him ever since, to the point of dedicating his career to him posthumously.

"Before I play, I always say a prayer to him before every game," said Randy Jr., who is nicknamed "Duke."

"I pretty much just say, 'I know that you're watching me,' and, 'protect me while I'm out there playing for you,' and, 'I'm doing everything for you.'"

What Johnson has done is guide last year's Vikings to a Class 3A state runner-up finish on 1,500 rushing yards for 20 touchdowns, and this year's team to an undefeated start. This past weekend, Johnson rolled on city rival Jackson (Miami) for 213 yards and four touchdowns for his No. 20 POWERADE FAB 50 team.

"When something like that happens in your life, you just sort of live for them," said Randy Jr., of his father's death. "You live the way that you know that they would have wanted you to, pretty much."

For "Duke," that often means demonstrating by example the poise that it takes to emerge as a leader through adversity on a squad "with a slew of young running backs; a ninth grader and two 10th-graders."

"When they make mistakes, I try to encourage them. In our last game, the freshman fumbled, and he got down, and I had to encourage him to stay up, emotionally," said Johnson. "I never thought about yelling at him. You just pat him on the back and tell him, 'everything is going to be alright.'"

ROLE MODEL Cassandra Mitchell and Martha Williams, mother and grandmother "My father's death was tough at the moment, but you have family; my mother, my grandmother, my sister and my brother. My family as a whole. They've been there through all of the struggles that I've gone through. They're the reason that I do my best."

The Huddle: Leading from the sidelines

October, 17, 2011
10/17/11
11:25
AM ET
The huddle is a sacred place in football; one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Senior running back Jahleel Pinner of Mission Viejo High (Calif.) talks about the patience he exercised while waiting out the two weeks during which he was sidelined with an ankle injury and his initiative in being proactive as a peer mentor to the pair of underclassmen charged with replacing him during that time. A 5-foot-11, 220-pounder with a 3.0 grade point average, Pinner has committed to a scholarship to USC, where he has designs on being a business major.

Pinner ran for nearly 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, when he helped lead the Diablos to a 13-1 mark and a runner-up finish in its Pacific 5 conference. This year, Pinner has rushed for six scores, having been sidelined with an injured right ankle for the last two games played by the Diablos (5-2).

"When I got hurt, we were winning the game, but I kept playing during the game and finished the game and we won that game," said Pinner of a victory over Long Beach Poly. "But I was preparing myself mentally, because knew that I would be out the for pretty much the next two weeks or so with the ankle."

Pinner was relegated more or less to the role of student-assistant coach. "I adjusted pretty well," said Pinner, who remained a positive influence despite being kept off the gridiron.

"Being a starter and a captain who is out, you definitely have to keep your confidence up," said Pinner. "Otherwise, confidence might go down, and the morale might go down. So I spent a lot of time telling my teammates to keep their confidence up and advising the backup running backs what to look for."

Sophomore Hunter Remington and junior Marcus Collins were the focus of much of Pinner's instruction.

"The sophomore, Hunter, hasn't really seen that much action, so I knew that it would be critical for me to talk to him and tell him what to look for and to just tell him to run hard. I was like, 'If this happens, a cut-back is going to be open on the backside,' or telling them which holes to hit," said Pinner.

"For Marcus, he's seen a little varsity action, but not as a full time player. So it was just telling him what to do and telling him about cutbacks and then listening to him and answering any questions that he might have."

Pinner returned to action after two weeks, but he learned a lot about himself.

"I was just trying to keep the pressure off of them a little bit. Just helping the kids. Teaching them was a positive for me," said Pinner. "Even though, personally, I didn't like being held out of the games or being on the sidelines, I think that I grew as player from the experience."

ROLE MODEL: Maurice Pinner, father. "Definitely my dad. He grew up without a dad, and yet he's always told me, 'I'll never let you down and I'm always here for you.' He's the one that has always helped me through my conditioning and setting things up for me. He's responsible for me being who I am and having the ability to play at the level I'm at right now."

The Huddle: Composure and confidence

October, 10, 2011
10/10/11
11:45
AM ET
The huddle is a sacred place in football; one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Junior quarterback Riley Ferguson of No. 36 FAB 50 team Butler (Matthews, N.C.) discusses maintaining composure, poise and humility as a team leader. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder has scholarship offers from Clemson, Louisville, LSU, Michigan and Virginia Tech, and has drawn interest from Alabama, Arkansas, California, East Carolina, Miami, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Ferguson guided last year's Bulldogs through a Class 4AA state title-winning, 16-0 season, totaling nearly 3,000 yards in the air and passing for 24 touchdowns.

Already this year, Ferguson has tied last year's mark for touchdown passes with 24 to go with nearly 1,500 yards in the air and two rushing scores, pacing the Bulldogs to victories in their past five games after having lost their season-opener.

But even with those gaudy achievements on his resume, Ferguson realizes that his ability to deal with the pressures of being the focal point of the program are critical both to himself and his teammates.

"When it comes to leading the team, everybody needs somebody they can focus on and count on to remain under control," said Ferguson. "Your response has to be composed. Composure can be can be anything from throwing the big touchdown to staying calm under pressure to making sure that the team is under control in tough situations."

Ferguson's attitude was a critical component following the Bulldogs' loss in their first game of the year.

"When we lost our first game, everybody was hurt by that. I looked at it as a loss, accepted it, and then tried to get everyone ready for the next week. It's about being a good example when everybody else is looking at you," said Ferguson.

"So you can never get too down, too excited or too nervous," said Ferguson. "They need somebody to look up to. That's probably one of the biggest things that I try to represent to my team. I think that's what helped us to move on from that first loss."

ROLE MODEL: Brett Favre "I like everything about the way Brett Favre plays. I've watched him ever since I was like a 4-year-old. He extends plays and he's one of the toughest quarterbacks to every play the game."

The Huddle: Faith, Family and Football

October, 3, 2011
10/03/11
11:43
AM ET
The huddle is a sacred place in football; one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Middle linebacker and tight end Butch "The Butcher" Pau'u of Servite High (Anaheim, Calif.) talks about choosing the right program not only for collegiate football but also for life preparation. Pau'u is a student with a 3.7 grade point average and has aspirations of a future in medicine. The 6-foot, 220-pounder committed to BYU in June over scholarship offers from Nebraska, Iowa State, Washington, Oregon State and Colorado -- largely because of his religious faith as a Mormon.

Playing solely on defense last season, Pau'u made over 100 tackles, registered five sacks, three interceptions and recovered two fumbles to lead the Friars to a 14-1 record and a state runner-up finish in California's the large schools division.

Pau'u, whose Friars just lost their first game in a close battle to Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman, listed education, environment, the coach, family's opinion and your decision among the five things for recruits should look for in selecting the right college.

"The first thing should be crucial is the education and how well-rounded the school is for academics because not many people are going to make it to the NFL," said Pau'u. "So after your college career, you could be done with football. So you want to be able to move on in life after football."

Second, said Pau'u, would be the campus environment, including "friends among teammates who will keep you on the right track, tell you the truth and help you to stay out of trouble."

The coach is third, said Pau'u, who will play for Bronco Mendenhall, followed by your family's influence.

"You want a coach who will tell you the truth when you're doing wrong, and who won't just baby you and will be in your ear, letting you know that you have to grow up or back down. You want to mature and to be able to handle life like a man," said Pau'u.

"Your family is next, because in most cases, they've helped you to get to that level, and they're the ones you thank. They're the ones who will be there by your side when all is said and done."

Finally, the recruit's own feelings, which, for Pau'u, boiled down to his faith.

"For me, I'm a Mormon, so it came down to being given the opportunity to serve my mission and still have a scholarship in hand, being able to play football," said Pau'u. "That was a big part of choosing BYU for me."

ROLE MODELs: Yepi and Tupou Pau'u, father and mother. "I've played football since I was seven, for 10 years now. My dad was my coach on and off the field, and he played linebacker at San Jose State. With chores, he taught me how to be a leader not a follower on and off the field and how to be a man. My mom is the most humble person on the face of the earth. She helps us with homework and reminds us to have God first, family second, education and football after that."

The Huddle: Play Your Position

September, 26, 2011
9/26/11
9:14
AM ET
The huddle is a sacred place in football; one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

In the fourth addition of the series, defensive tackle Milo Jordan of Centennial High (Corona, Calif.) talks about how to become more of a selfless player and build trust with teammates. Jordan has a 3.2 average and a desire to become a graphic designer. The 6-foot-3, 265-pounder is committed to become a Sun Devil for Arizona State.

Last season, Jordan made 94 tackles and came up with nearly six sacks, recovered three fumbles and caused two more fumbles. Not a bad season for a junior who helped to guide the Huskies to a 14-1 record and a state runner-up finish.

"One thing that I've always been able to do is be a big team player, but there were times in the past where I may have gotten out of position because I didn't trust the guy next to me to do his particular job," said Jordan.

"You want to have the numbers, yeah, but you also want to do your job, and then, a lot of times you'll find out that that makes your team a lot more solid. You learn how to play to the benefit of everyone, and not yourself."

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The Huddle: Team comes first

September, 19, 2011
9/19/11
10:49
AM ET
Cyler Miles is a versatile playmaker that ranks as the No. 35 athlete in the ESPNU 150. AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez/ESPNHSCyler Miles is a versatile playmaker that ranks as the No. 35 athlete in the ESPNU 150.
The huddle is a sacred place in football; one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Cyler Miles of Mullen (Denver, Colo.) turned his freshman year selfishness evolved into selflessness -- doing the little, sometimes unseen things toward accomplishing the team goals. Miles holds a 3.1 GPA and plans to major in psychology. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has committed to the University of Washington.

As a junior, Miles threw for 20 touchdowns and more than 2,100 yards, ran for seven more scores and and more than 600 yards, and lead the Mustangs to a 37-6 victory over Regis Jesuit for their program's third straight Class 5A state title.

Miles had thrown for four scoring passes in the Mustangs' first two games this year, but isn't worried as much about the stats as much as the intangibles that do not appear in the box scores.

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