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Northridge's Scarbrough handling pressures of being a top recruit


Northridge running back Bo Scarbrough (Photo by T.G. Paschal)


TUSCALOOSA | Strolling into a downtown restaurant Friday evening, he felt a crowd of eyes dart in his direction. When he placed his order at the counter, people stared.

He’s only 16 but already accustomed to heads turning and the hushed whispers when he walks past.

When you’re nearly 6-foot-3, 225 pounds with less than five percent body fat, you draw attention — wanted or not. Make no mistake about it, Bo Scarbrough is drawing attention.

Only a rising junior, Scarbrough is earning comparisons to the best running backs to come through West Alabama. It’s yet to be determined if he can be as good as Antoneyo Williams (Central, 1996 Mr. Football), Le’Ron McClain (Tuscaloosa County) or Markus Manson (Hillcrest), but the potential is there and those who follow high school football in this area know it.

Count Northridge head coach Mike Smith in that group. He knows what his talented running back is capable of this season. He also knows the obstacles that await Scarbrough as his star’s profile continues to rise.

"I probably get asked about Bo an average of five times a day, and that’s outside the football team," Smith said. "That kind of exposure is definitely going to change any kid. You just hope it’s change for the positive. It’s changed him to a degree but not a whole lot."

It’s not a shock Scarbrough would be affected by his notoriety. At a time when his teammates are learning to drive a car or getting ready for first dates, Scarbrough is sitting and talking with famous college football coaches like Nick Saban and Mark Richt.

He is recognized almost anywhere he goes. College football fans from different schools lobby for him to choose their program. People want to be friends with him just because he’s a star football player. All of it adds up to a lot for a kid to handle.

Scarbrough said he feels the pressure, but said he’s trying to keep it all in perspective.

"I mean, I don’t think it’s a big deal, but most of the people around me think it’s a big deal," Scarbrough said. "I have more people come up to me now and ask me my name and be like, ‘Yeah, you’re that kid from Northridge.’

"It happens all the time. At dinner I walked in and this guy kept on looking at me. I was wondering, ‘Why does he keep looking at me?’ Then I walked past him again and he was still looking.

"Some days are different, but most days I treat it like I was back in seventh or eighth grade before all this football stuff happened."

That "football stuff" has landed him offers from some of the top schools in the country, including Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Michigan to name a few. And he hasn’t even played a down as a junior yet.

Scarbrough remains relatively grounded thanks largely to a couple of things. For starters, he doesn’t fully grasp how rare his abilities are. He also has a solid foundation of support around him, from the Northridge coaching staff, friends/teammates and his mother.

Senior wide receiver James Cox, who has offers from Arkansas, Cincinnati, Purdue, Southern Miss and Vanderbilt in his own right, is among Scarbrough’s closest friends. He lifts him up when he gets too down on himself, and he keeps him grounded when emotions get the better of him. When Scarbrough is confused, he goes to Cox.

"The first thing I always tell him is just like Coach says, surround yourself with good people," Cox said. "If you want to know where you’re going to be in the next five years, look at who your friends are. That’s what I tell him. He has a lot of pressure on him, but he can only do what he can do. As long as you go out there and give it 100 percent and work hard, everything else will take care of itself."

And why does Scarbrough feel all that pressure?

"Six-two-and-a-half, 225 pounds and a 4.4-40 (yard dash time)," Cox said. "That comes with pressure. Anybody would have that."

Being well-known isn’t always a good thing, as Scarbrough is learning. He’s become the bulls-eye of other teams’ efforts, both physically and mentally. Opposing players looking to earn their own recognition figure the best way to do that is to stop the heralded Scarbrough. They blanket his every move and sometimes, when no one’s watching, they trash talk, attempting to get in his head by telling him he’s no good or overrated.

To have the maturity to deal with that is a tough thing for a 16-year-old to do. That’s why Smith and Cox stay in Scarbrough’s ear to be above it all, to prove his worth on the field and not with his words.

"We’ve got to do a good job preaching that some people don’t play or coach with class," Smith said. "Some teams are going to do everything they can to disrupt him as an individual and us as a team. If you let those people determine your success, they’re going to make you stoop down to their level. He’s going to see a lot of that from players and coaches as well. He better get ready.

"He’s got to get accustomed to knowing all 11 guys are coming at him. I hope he understands the target on his back."

Scarbrough is the rare player who has to fight greatness. With his physical talents, Scarbrough can coast through practice and still be the best player on the field. It comes so easy for him that sometimes he doesn’t have to try.

If he wants to reach his full potential he’ll have to battle that, Smith said.

"I still don’t think he fully understands how good he can be," Smith said. "It’s hard for him to understand how big, fast and strong he is when there is nothing he can compare himself to. There is nobody like him. So the tendency becomes, ‘Do just enough to get by.’ It’s effortless to him because his talents are so much better than everybody else.

"That’s the demon that all great players have to fight. Throughout most of their lives, they don’t have to try to succeed to win. It comes natural. But there will always come a time when somebody will be better than you someday. That guy who’s working hard when you’re not, when you meet up with him, he will win. That’s the thing we stress to Bo. Don’t measure yourselves against others in practice. Measure to the standard of practicing as hard as you can and preparing yourself as well as you can."

To join the ranks of Williams, McClain and Manson as some of West Alabama’s best running backs, Scarbrough will have to avoid the injury jinx that’s plagued him the past two seasons. A broken ankle derailed his freshman campaign and a devastating knee injury halted a promising sophomore season.

Cox said he thinks Scarbrough is ready to shock people.

"He’s going to have a break-out season," Cox said. "I think he’s ready mentally. He’s always had the physical talent, but mentally, I think he’s at the point where he’s ready to break out."

Scarbrough’s profile is sure to continue to rise with two more seasons of exposure to come. Those around him are preparing him for what’s to follow. He’s got a game plan too.

"I think it will be harder as it goes, but the friends that I have now, they’ll always be my friends," Scarbrough said. "I’ll never forget about them. They were around before I got all of this exposure. They’re going to treat me the same as they did before I became known for football."

 

Reach Aaron Suttles at Aaron@TideSports.com or at 205-722-0229.