Brown’s Louis emerging
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS ó Three soldiers in camouflage were in A.L. Brown’s auditorium to salute rising senior running back Artrele Louis.
Louis, the most heavily recruited Wonder since Nick Maddox starred a decade ago, was officially nominated Thursday for consideration to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio’s Alamodome on Jan. 3.
Usually, it’s the Marines who are looking for a few good men, but this time it’s the U.S. Army. Louis is one of 400 prep players on the All-American Bowl consideration list.
Ninety athletes will be selected to play in the game by a committee that includes recruiting authorities Rivals.com, Tom Lemming and Sports Link.
Forty-five players will be chosen for each squad in an East vs. West matchup.
Players and their head coaches will be flown to San Antonio with all expenses paid, said Nigel Jones, a representative of the U.S. Army’s Kannapolis recruiting office.
The All-American Bowl, which will be televised live by NBC, attracted a crowd of 36,354 last January. Players such as Reggie Bush and Vince Young made their national debuts in the All-American Bowl, and Davie County cornerback Raeshon McNeil, played in the 2006 game.
Louis, a sturdy, 5-foot-10, 180-pounder with 4.4 speed, is friendly, humble, quiet and quick.
He been getting stacks of correspondence from ACC and SEC schools and East Carolina for a year, but being acknowledged as one of the nation’s elite still made him shake his head in awe.
“It’s a great honor,” he said, flashing a shy smile. “I always thought I was OK, but I really never thought I was that good.”
Piedmont would argue with Louis. He carried three times against them and scored on touchdown runs of 62, 89 and 91 yards.
Mooresville would beg to differ with him too. He had kickoff returns of 86 and 87 yards and a third TD on a 16-yard run to beat the Blue Devils.
Louis’ final numbers weren’t staggering for someone nominated for an All-American game, but coach Ron Massey said Louis’ 943 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns don’t tell the story.
He was Brown’s most talented offensive player, averaging nearly 8 yards per carry, but he didn’t have to be a workhorse. Quincy Kennedy rushed for 600 yards. Jonathan Williams logged nearly 500. East-West QB Jonathan Efird threw for close to 2,000.
“We had a stretch of five (blowout) games where Artrele played probably less than half the game,” Massey said. “Then he got hurt in the Concord game and missed the playoffs. When you add it up, it’s like he played maybe six full games.”
That injury against the Spiders caused sleepless nights last fall. Louis left the game with what was believed to be an ordinary stinger, but discomfort lingered and he didn’t play again.
However, health concerns appear to be in the past now, and he feels he’s good to go.
Louis described the injury as a “pinched nerve in my spine,” which sounds scary. But he’s recovered and moved on and the Wonders are confident he’ll be a serious force as a senior.
Louis, who moved to North Carolina from New York in 1999, has an interesting background.
As a freshman, he was just one of an army of backs in Brown’s deep and talented Class of 2009.
“I guess that just shows how dumb a coach I am,” Massey said with a chuckle. “When Artrele was a freshman, we thought he was just an average back and didn’t recognize that he was anything special. But his sophomore year, he got into the weight room, started working with Todd (Hagler), and the light really came on for him.”
Once the light came on, Louis started piling up TDs in jayvee games.
He stood out in combines after his sophomore year, but he started slowly on the varsity as a junior, producing 52 yards on 20 carries opening night against Central Cabarrus, then failing to find any running room against South Rowan.
Massey sat Louis down after his struggle against South.
“I told him he wasn’t running to his ability,” Massey said. “And I told him Mooresville was next, and we really needed a big game from him.”
Louis responded with his two kickoff returns for touchdowns. Brown won 29-26, and Louis never looked back.
“That Mooresville game,” Massey said, “really started him on his way.”
Louis topped 100 yards rushing in three straight bruising games against Mooresville, Sun Valley and Anson before he relaxed a bit after the Wonders hit the soft portion of their schedule.
What has made the gifted Louis a national recruiting target is unusual explosiveness and acceleration. He achieves his maximum speed so quickly potential tacklers are often left grabbing air.
He’s also shown an increasing ability to drag or shed tacklers. He’s strong for his size, squatting 365 pounds and benching 230. He runs with authority after first contact and his frame promises additional strength and tackle-breaking power down the road.
“I’m working, lifting with Coach Hagler, doing everything I can to be ready for next season,” Louis said. “It should be a great one for us.”
Louis turned in a solid track season for the Wonders this spring, running legs on a 4×100 relay unit that placed fifth in the state and a 4×200 team that qualified for the 3A state meet, but he is blessed with football speed rather than pure track sprinter’s speed.
Louis makes good grades and will likely receive a multitude of scholarship offers once he achieves qualifying SAT or ACT scores.
“You won’t find a better kid anywhere,” Massey said. “He’s still very humble, and he’s worked so hard he’s earned the respect of everyone. Sometimes when a kid starts getting attention, there’s animosity, but with Artrele, his teammates are very excited for him.”n
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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