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July 6, 2010Colin Osborne was not happy. He had just exploded for one of the best runs of his high school career, a 50-yard Houdini-like scamper that took his Glenelg Gladiators all the way down to the Howard 1-yard line, and his coach, Butch Shaffer, was taking him out of the game. Osborne stomped off the field, ripped off his helmet and slammed it to the turf.
The coaches scolded the normally levelheaded Osborne, but the talented junior running back was fed up.
"I was very frustrated," said the 5-foot-10, 187-pound Osborne. "I had this amazing run and they took me out. I was so mad."
This wasn't just one isolated instance, a prima donna athlete wanting all the attention. Osborne felt he had been getting slighted on carries since his sophomore year.
But the Glenelg staff had their reasons. First of all, they had a senior runner, Shannon Maura, who had earned the right to start. Secondly, Shaffer didn't want to limit his most dynamic, athletic player to just one position.
"There's no doubt he could have run the ball more, but we were doing what was best for the team," Shaffer said. "Shannon was a hard runner, and, at his age, he was a lot more physically mature. Colin was more versatile and athletic. We wanted to keep him fresh and take advantage of that versatility so it would be hard for defenses to game-plan against him. You don't take an athlete like that and punish him with a 35-carry game."
Osborne realized this, but he still sought the headline gig, the glory associated with leading the rushing attack. He watched as other tailbacks landed on the ESPN Top 150 and Rivals 250 lists, his name noticeably absent.
"I don't want to sound cocky, but I think I'm one of the top running backs in the state," Osborne said. "But I have a lot to prove. No one knows what I can really do yet."
Ironically, Osborne chose to come to Glenelg because he figured he could start right away. As a rising star in junior high school he caught the attention of the coaches at Good Counsel. Osborne thought long and hard about playing for the private-school power from the WCAC, but he felt he'd be buried on their depth chart.
When asked if he regretted the decision now, Osborne said he didn't.
"I'm happy here and I'm just going to make the most of my senior year," Osborne said.
Osborne should be happy. He may not have a 1,500-yard rushing season under his belt, but it's not like he hasn't seen the field. Shaffer made sure he got the ball in the hands of his playmaker.
Osborne lined up at wide receiver and in the slot, where he managed over 300 yards receiving last year. Then, as a rotational running back, he received 88 carries for around 800 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Underclassmen players could have worse years.
"What we did was really showcase all his abilities," Shaffer said. "That was probably the best thing for him. Instead of just having one talent, he has many to give."
Osborne came to accept that explanation. He still wanted to be the feature 'back, but Osborne is not a selfish malcontent. His blowup against Howard was an anomaly.
Instead of brooding, Osborne channeled all his passion into his game, taking advantage of the opportunities he did have. Every carry became the most important one of the season.
"My Dad really helped me," Osborne said. "He would tell me, 'You may not get many carries this game, but those you do get, make sure you give it all on that one carry. Make sure you get 50 yards and a touchdown; leave it all out on the field.'"
He did just that after his 50-yard run against Howard. A few possessions later he scored on a 10-yard run and then capped his day with a 60-yard touchdown. The rest of the season became a montage of big-plays, albeit not always from the tailback position. Nevertheless, Osborne ran over linebackers like O.J. Simpson and broke more ankles than Rajon Rondo with a crossover dribble.
Shaffer was pleased. Osborne was developing into the star he envisioned when he first met him over three years ago as an eighth grader in Glenelg's feeder program. Shaffer recalled a mature young man who just looked different from the other young athletes.
"He had it," Shaffer said. "It was the way he carried himself. He had character, and I could tell he had the work ethic.
"And then when he got on the field? He was tremendous," Shaffer continued. "He has a rare combination of speed, power and size. And better yet, he sees things before they happen. He knows exactly where the hole is going to be and he explodes right through it. He's just a special player, one of the best I've coached."
It turns out college recruiters agree with Shaffer. Osborne currently claims three Division I-AA offers and he'll undoubtedly land a Division I scholarship as the offseason moves forward. ("It's only a matter of when," Shaffer said.) The reason for the attention? Shaffer points to that versatility.
"Colleges now are seeing him as a receiver and as a running back," Shaffer said. "Recruiters could care less how many yards you have - it's what they see in your ability."
Regardless, next year Shaffer vows to start Osborne at running back. For the rising senior, it's been a long time coming.
"I've been ready to be the lead 'back since my sophomore year," Osborne said. "I want 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. I'm fully capable."
Those are lofty goals, but Osborne is certainly doing the required work. In order to improve his speed, he works with trainer Joe Haden, whose helped shave more than 0.2 off his 40-yard dash time. At his latest combine he ran a laser-timed 4.36 40-yard dash, opening the eyes of more than a few Division I recruiters. And thanks to his weight-room work, his core is as solid as a boulder, making him virtually impossible to bring down after the first hit.
"There is no weakness in his game," Shaffer said. "He does everything - runs, catches, blocks. He's been tremendous, and he's only going to get better. I have no doubt about that."
As for Osborne? Well, he's come a long way from that Howard blowup last season. He's actively seeking the team captain title with his vocal leadership and unrivaled work ethic. Plus, now that Osborne's been granted the starting running back position, he knows he has to perform.
"This is my year," Osborne said. "I'm going to run with authority and show everyone how great I am."