There were options aplenty for Maleek Irons, who wears more individual accomplishments than any running back in the history of B.C. high school football.
In the end, however, the province’s all-time leading career rusher knew a fit when he found one, and in a move that seems custom-tailored to his substantial skills, the 6-foot, 215-pound senior with Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Hawks has announced that he will put pen to paper Feb. 5 as part of the U.S. national letter of intent day, and sign on for a college football career with the NCAA Div. 1 Ohio University Bobcats.
“You can go to the bigger-type school, but then at your position, you might be one of the last in line,” reasons longtime Mouat head football coach Denis Kelly, who applauded Irons’ choice. “But now, as opposed to showing them that you can play, Maleek is in a position where he has to show them that he can’t play, because they believe he can and he will get every opportunity. They have been up here four times to see him. They have spent so much time researching him, and they are not going to invest everything they have just to have him sit.”
Without question there were programs from bigger schools, playing in bigger conferences than the Mid-American Conference which the Athens, Ohio school resides, who were interested in having Irons join their programs, including at least three Pac 12 schools in Washington, Washington State and Colorado.
But then none of that should come as a surprise when you finish your high school career with what can only be called B.C.’s Triple Crown of rushing:
*Most yards for a career with 6,175.
*Most yards in a season with 3,204 in 2012.
*Most yards in a game with 491.
The career total is mind-numbing, but what is key to note is that just 227 of those yards came as a junior varsity call-up in 2011 when Irons was in Grade 10. Over his final two seasons of senior varsity with the Hawks, in which he played in 23 games, Irons carried 510 times for 5,948 yards and 76 touchdowns.
Considering that he played at the province’s highest tier of competition, and was often on the sidelines watching in games that had quickly become blowout victories, Irons still averaged 259 yards per game, 11.7 yards per carry, and 3.3 touchdowns per game over his Grade 11-12 seasons.
Although he rushed for 460 fewer yards this season, compared to his record-setting 2012 campaign, he also played one less game and had exactly 100 fewer carries. In fact his yards-per-carry this season was his best, at 13.4 ypc over 10.5 in 2012.
On Oct. 13, 2012, Irons carried 47 times for a B.C.-record 491 yards and five TDs in Mouat’s 52-49 home-field win over the Mt. Douglas Rams of Victoria. The Rams, current three-time defending B.C. Subway Bowl Triple A champs and led by senior standout Marcus Davis, are 18-0 against B.C. competition since that loss.
Yet despite being decorated to the hilt, Irons remains a young man who has worn his accomplishments with a deep sense of humility
“I know this might sound funny,” begins Irons, who is set to begin his college career just as former Mouat star Boseko Lokombo has finished his at Oregon, “but I never really cared about all that stuff. They were good achievements. But my goal this season was to help my team win a championship. We didn’t. But I can’t dwell on it. Hopefully, my championship will come at Ohio.”
And to further Kelly’s point about perfect fits, Irons talks about the Bobcats like he’s trying on his favourite pair of gloves for the first time.
“It’s how they communicated with me, it all made me feel like they cared for me as a person and a player, more than just being a number,” Irons says. “They felt that I would be a fit for their offence, and that if I came in ready, that I would be on the field. I am very excited.”
Kelly relates that in his conversations with Ohio head coach Frank Solich, formerly 58-19 as the Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach, that the Bobcats were looking to have a different presence in the running game.
“Coach Solich mentioned to me that they wanted to get a bigger back,” says Kelly. “They had been going with more of the 180-pound scat backs but they wanted to get bigger and that (Irons) really fit the mould.”
And Irons couldn’t have picked a better college head coach to learn the running game under. Solich, a former Nebraska fullback, spent 15 of his 19 seasons as a Huskers’ assistant under the legendary Tom Osborne as the team’s running backs coach, shaping future NFL stars like Tom Rathman and Ahman Green. The Ohio team which Irons joins in the fall has played in five straight bowl games, and Solich has led it to three MAC East Division titles in his nine years at the helm.
by Howard Tsunamura, The Province, Jan 23, 2014