UC’s Hyde toughens up for record
Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 7:00 pm
Messenger Sports Editor
Keylon Hyde has answered one question.
He’s on the verge of being the answer to another.
The centerpiece of Union City’s ground-and-pound midline/veer offense, Hyde needs just 51 more yards to become the all-time leading rusher in Tornado football history.
Not bad when one considers there was a time not so long ago when many wondered aloud if the 5-8, 210-pounder was tough enough to handle the wear and tear of the fullback role in a triple-option scheme that depends heavily on the position.
“In that position in our style of offense, the fullback takes a pounding,” UC head coach Darren Bowling said. “I think it is natural for people who are familiar with what we do to question if a player can do it or not. You never really know until they do it over a period of time.
“Coming out of middle school, he had a couple of unfortunate injuries that caused people to question whether or not he could hold up or if he could handle the physcial nature of the position and remain productive. No doubt he’s proven himself and answered anyone who might’ve been skeptical.”
Hyde will enter Friday night’s game at second-ranked (Class 2A) and unbeaten Dresden with 3,767 rushing yards during his three-plus seasons in a Purple and Gold uniform. He trails just Mario McElrath — the program’s only Mr. Football Award winner (2000), who accumulated 3,818 yards during a career that was cut short after his junior year due to off-the-field issues — in career rushing yardage.
McElrath, who established likely untouchable UCHS single-season school records of 2,088 yards and 36 touchdowns during his final campaign when he was awarded the prestigious Mr. Football honors, averaged 9.6 yards-per-attempt in a decidedly different alignment when the Twisters operated basically out of the T-formation with some I-sets mixed in during his junior year.
Hyde followed perhaps the most bruising and productive fullback in Tornado history when he stepped in for the graduated Josh Nicks after Union City won its only state football championship in school history in 2009.
The battering-ram Nicks set a BlueCross Bowl record with 47 carries in UC’s upset of South Pittsburg in the title game and posted the third-best seasonal total (1,632 yards) and second-most TDs (32) in the Union City High School gridiron annals during that magical campaign.
Hyde, without the breakaway speed of McElrath and not of the physical stature of the 6-1, 230-pound Nicks, has combined far better-than-average traits in each of those categories to carve his own niche in Bowling’s offense and the Twister record books.
“I never saw McElrath play, but I had Nicks and know how physically tough he was,” Bowling said. “From what I’ve heard about McElrath and what I saw with Josh, Keylon has a little bit of them both in his style. He’s a good athlete and is capable of breaking off the long one once he gets past the line of scrimmage instead of just looking for somewhere to fall down like some fullbacks. And he’ll certainly punish you and get the extra yards, the tough yards.”
Both explosive and durable, Hyde has eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark 17 times during his career — including in four of UC’s five games this season. Four times he’s gone over 200 yards and his personal-best performance was a 303-yard, four-touchdown outburst against Trigg County (Ky.) in his first game at fullback as a sophomore.
In addition to knocking on the door of becoming the school’s all-time rushing leader, Hyde — with continued good health and production similar to his past — can become the only running back ever at UC to post three straight 1,000-yard seasons.
Hyde has had a considerably-lighter workload this season — partly due to three blowout victories and also because of a much better surrounding cast at the slot and quarterback positions. To-date this year, he has 83 carries for 596 yards and 10 TDs through the Tornadoes’ first five games.
And while his 5.7 yards-per-carry average and astounding 329 rushing attempts last season produced the second-best (1,801 yards) single season in school history and all-state accolades is a testimony to his relentlessness, his coach said that is only part of the story.
“The thing that people don’t see on Friday nights is that we don’t sit him in practice. He takes a licking every day and keeps on ticking. He took a real beating the last couple of years because we were so young and inexperienced up front. He’s remained physical, though, and sets an example in practice, and in the weight room,” Bowling insisted. “I think just as important, he’s a good teammate. He’ll be the first to tell you that most of the credit for his yards should go to the offensive line. He just wants to win. He’s grown and matured into a great leader — both mentally and physically. He’s one of a kind.”
There’s certainly no questioning that.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Published in The Messenger 9.18.12