As defenders look across the line of scrimmage and at the Aquinas backfield, most eyes focus on one player.
There is Brendan Douglas, ready to run over an opponent, even if the ball isn’t in his hands.
The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Douglas led the Irish to the best season in program history as Aquinas reached the quarterfinals of the Class A state playoffs. For his strong season, Douglas is The Augusta Chronicle’s Georgia football player of the year.
“I’ll run over you or I’ll run around you,” Douglas said. “Either way, I try to not let one person tackle me. But my offensive line does a great job. I just try to find a hole and just run.”
More often than not, Douglas found room and carried defenders with him, rushing for 1,569 yards and 27 touchdowns. But the junior also had a team-high 121 tackles at linebacker and played on special teams. It wasn’t unusual for Douglas to play 150 snaps in a game, sometimes rushing the ball 10 times in a row.
“Defenses get tired of tackling him,” Aquinas coach Matt LeZotte said.
Though Douglas has the talent, LeZotte said what makes Douglas special is he doesn’t waste it.
Douglas tries to work out at least five days a week, and his determination there has him benching 370 pounds.
“A lot of young guys look at him and they’re like, ‘Man, I see him working hard,’” LeZotte said. “It’s rubbed off on young guys. But it’s rubbed off on old guys. They see his success and want to work as hard as he does.”
Douglas, who has eight siblings, started working out seriously by the time he was in sixth grade. Douglas said he doesn’t stop until he knows he became a little better that day.
Douglas and LeZotte both attributed the previously unreached success to the senior class. LeZotte said all this season’s key components have been growing with the program the past few seasons, forcing a change in mentality and vision for the Irish.
Douglas’ class takes over the senior leadership role next season, and he wants to better this year’s quarterfinal run. Though he’s thought about playing college football, including in Division I, he’s first intent on winning and working as much as he can at Aquinas.
“He’s always wanting to be challenged, always wanting to strive to live up to that challenge,” LeZotte said. “His focus has allowed him to be that cornerstone of our program.”