Elijah Spottswood and a few Sherwood High School football teammates were messing around in the gym during a July workout, taking running starts and jumping to touch the rim with one hand.
Sherwood coach Chris Grier nervously watched, hoping Spottswood wouldn’t aggravate a knee injury that had sidelined him from April until that very day.
Finally, the first-year coach’s instincts took over, and he wanted to see what his healthy star player could do.
“Take one step and grab it with two hands,” Grier told Spottswood.
Spottswood had never done that before, but he took one step back, went forward and reached the rim with both hands.
“He was so amped to be full tilt and be able to do whatever he wanted without any restrictions that he was bouncing off the walls,” Grier said.
Spottswood is again bouncing off the walls, wishing he could make a bigger impact for Sherwood (2-1). When he lines up at running back, opponents stack the box. At cornerback, teams throws to the other side of the field. As a returner, kickers and punters angle the ball away from him.
“It’s really annoying, actually,” Spottswood said. “The reason it’s frustrating is because I need film, so I can play football at the next level.”
Spottswood has received plenty of interest — Appalachian State University, Stony Brook University, Towson University, Wake Forest University, Temple University, University of Toledo, Old Dominion University, James Madison University, Boise State University, University of Kansas and Tusculum College — but no team has offered a scholarship.
He at least takes solace that his presence has helped Sherwood, even if he’s not directly responsible. With more balls coming his way, cornerback Alec Perez already has four interceptions this season. Running in relief of Spottswood at times, freshman running back Travis Levy has impressed Grier.
“I love to see my teammates do well,” Spottswood said. “It also shows me that my opponents in the county respect me as an athlete, and they know what I can do.”
Against Springbrook last week, Spottswood intercepted a pass, delivered a stiff arm and made a couple spin moves during a long return. He needed a breather, and Levy took the next handoff for a touchdown.
When Levy returned to the sideline, Grier told him to thank Spottswood for setting up the score.
“Elijah was certainly smiling to see that,” Grier said.
Earlier in the game, Spottswood ate a couple granola bars on the sideline during a timeout. He suffers from Type-1 diabetes, and though he usually manages the disease by careful monitoring his pregame eating, this was a rare instance of it affecting him during play. Usually, postgame cramps are the only football-related symptom.
Now, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound speedster says everything, including his knee and diabetes, is back under control. So, his coach is devising ways to get him the ball more — for good reason.
“He’s a kid that deserves his touches,” Grier said. “He works really hard, works hard in the offseason. So, he’s definitely going to continue to carry the load for us.
“He’s a great athlete. He’s good at whatever he does. Put a basketball in his hands, he’s good at basketball. I’m pretty sure he can do whatever he wants.”