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Coker looks to lead Seawolves into CAA contention

Coker returns from injury to lead the Seawolves running corps. (BASIL JOHN/THE STATESMAN)
Coker returns from injury to lead the Seawolves running corps. (BASIL JOHN/THE STATESMAN)

Earl Campbell is one of the most dynamic football players to ever play the game, period. After being selected with the first pick of the 1978 National Football League draft, the Texas graduate and Heisman Trophy winner had a career which kids dream about while growing up, becoming the model of a power running back, bulldozing anybody in his path. In his first season with the Houston Oilers, he helped turn a five-win team into a perennial playoff contender.

As Seawolves fans know all too well, Stony Brook managed only five wins themselves last season. They could only hope that getting a guy back who idolizes Campbell, molds his game after the legend’s and shares the same number could help bring the same results.

No. 34 is not as celebrated as the likes of 12, which was worn by seven Hall of Fame quarterbacks, 32, which was worn by arguably the greatest to ever play the game, Jim Brown, or 80, a classic wide receiver’s number. Yet, every time that Coker jogs out of Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium’s home tunnel, he chooses to sport a jersey with a “34” embroidered across his chest.

“It’s just always been my favorite number,” the Seawolves’ thousand yard-rusher of 2012, said. “I always wanted to be like those guys.”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. From Campbell and Walter Payton to the likes of the more recent Ricky Williams and multi-sport extraordinaire Bo Jackson, No. 34 has had plenty of accomplishments attached to it. Most of all, far past individual accolades has been the most important of all for Stony Brook football: winning.

For the Maryland native, following in the footsteps of athletes who have lead their teams back to relevance into playoff contention, or from contention to championships is nothing to overlook.

Entering the Colonial Athletic Association in 2013, the Seawolves had their worst season in terms of record since 2008. With a tough conference change and many key injuries, it was not the easiest of transitions for the 5-6 Seawolves. If one were to ask which injury hurt the most, the answer is star running back Marcus Coker..

For a player who was the second-leading rusher in the Big 10 at Iowa, arguably the toughest conference in all of college football, before transferring to Stony Brook in 2012, missing a year hurt his team. In 2012, Coker rushed for over 1,000 yards while part of a backfield with current Pittsburgh Steeler Miguel Maysonet, who accumulated over 2,000. Known for his physicality, which eventually wears down defenses, Coker will be able to combat the improved size and strength of the CAA.

However, the redshirt senior, who broke his leg during the spring in a motorcycle accident and received a fifth and final year of eligibility after sustaining an abdominal injury, which forced him to miss the majority of last season, acknowledges that the team has other running backs who are more than capable. Without Coker last season, the likes of James Kenner and Tyler Fredericks gave teams fits both in and outside of the numbers, rushing both through the middle of the field and towards the sidelines.

“I mean we’ve got some good backs out here so we’re all competing for a spot,” Coker said on his team’s depth. “You’ve got to earn your spot, nothing is ever going to be given to you.”

That is the sort of professionalism that Coker brings to the table. It is not out of the realm of possibility that it is a result of spending much time watching his idols like Campbell play and act.

“I try to run like him, watching his film growing up,” Coker said. “Days before the game I’ll watch some of his highlights and stuff”

At the end of the day, it takes more than a student-athlete who knows how to avoid tacklers to make a good football player. Having the knowledge that he is on a team with other good players pushes Coker every day.

“It steps up your level of play because all of them are fighting for that starting spot,” Coker said. “You just have to be that much better.”

And with those intentions in mind, Coker looks to ground and pound the Seawolves back to FCS contention.

“You just got to make this last one count,” he said. “Have some fun.”

With the “34” on his back, Coker will do more than just have fun, but in his last hoorah, make a spectacle of entertainment for fans, teammates and the whole world to see.

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