LAKEWOOD RANCH -- At this point of the season, most workhorse running backs are feeling a little tired.
But Lakewood Ranch's Chris Pearcey is not one of them. He said he is fresh and ready for the stretch run. The junior running back attributes his fountain of energy to his offensive line and his father, Tony.
The elder Pearcey was a standout at Bayshore and had a solid career at Vanderbilt, where he started for two years and was good enough to get invited to the New York Giants training camp.
If not for injuries, Tony Pearcey's career could've been among the best of the many great players to come out of Manatee County. But an incredible string of injuries curtailed his dreams.
It played a big role in his decision to prohibit Chris and his younger brother, Cameron, a sophomore receiver for the Mustangs, from playing football until high school. Tony has had second thoughts, but
Chris said it made him a better player.
"I see kids who have been playing football since they were real young, and they are tired of it. To me, it's all new, and I love it," Chris Pearcey said. "Not playing football before high school has not hindered me at all."
His job was even more difficult because Chris switched positions. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder started his career as a sophomore and switched to a full-time running back this year when Ranch needed to fill a big void.
Tony Pearcey's list of injuries could fill a medical dictionary. From high school through college, he broke his wrist four times and had two shoulder surgeries and a broken ankle and then fractured his wrist at the Giants camp, which may have led to his release.
"I didn't want my two sons to play before high school because I wanted them to have the opportunity to have their bodies mature and get in a weightlifting program," Tony Pearcey said. "I also wanted to make sure football was something they wanted to do because youth football is a big commitment. It was a dad protecting his kids for as long as he could."
Tony Pearcey said he wasn't injury prone, just not strong enough. As a junior, he was Bayshore's starting quarterback at 6-foot-3 and describes himself as "rail-thin." His top weight was 190 pounds his last year at Vanderbilt.
He broke his wrist and switched to receiver his senior year at Bayshore because he couldn't throw. It was a good move because he won a football scholarship to Vanderbilt and started his last two years, which might have been three if he didn't get hurt during his sophomore season.
"Probably half of those injuries would've been prevented if I was stronger, and Chris is stronger now than what I was in high school," Tony Pearcey said.
From eighth grade through college and the Giants camp, Tony only had one injury-free year. He doesn't see that happening to his sons.
"I had Chris in a flag football league one year, and he told me that was enough. He wanted to hit somebody," Tony said
Chris Pearcey has hit a lot of people. He is Manatee County's fifth-leading rusher with 631 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry with six touchdowns.
He is willing to do anything to help his team, but can't hide the fact he enjoys running back more than receiver.
"At the beginning, the toughest adjustment was learning the plays. It's totally different than at receiver," Chris said. "I like playing running back because you have more control over the game. I usually run in between the tackles. I love that because you see everything in front of you, and those guys (offensive linemen) are great. I am nothing without them."
Pearcey has heard a lot of fans say Lakewood Ranch's young team has exceeded expectations with its 5-2 record and 3-0 district mark. The Mustangs can put themselves in the driver's seat for a district title with a victory over unbeaten Largo on Friday at Lakewood Ranch.
"We haven't exceeded our expectations," Chris said. "This is the closet team I've ever been on, and that is important because you know you can depend on the person next to you."
Pearcey also appreciates his offensive line and sophomore quarterback Chad Rex.
"You are nothing without the offensive line. They are your lifeline," Chris Pearcey said. "Michael Farhat (center) and Corey Adams (guard) are our most experienced guys, but they are all good. Its tough carrying the load like Chad has done as a sophomore. He is getting better and is not afraid of anything. He will take on linebackers on quarterback scrambles."