It took some time for Reservoir's Avian White to find his spot on the football field. Entering high school at 6 feet and more than 200 pounds, coaches saw an athletic but inexperienced player and thought to develop him as a lineman.
But as everyone would soon find out, traditional roles, like opposing tacklers, can't contain White, the Howard County Times/Columbia Flier Offensive Player of the Year.
"I haven't seen a guy that can do what he does," said coach Bryan Cole. "He's always been athletic and as he's grown up he's filled out and got stronger, and become even more athletic."
Growing up, White was content to stay on the sidelines, playing video games with his brothers and riding bikes rather than picking up a football or basketball.
"I would just watch other kids play basketball," said the soft-spoken White. "I was not interested in sports until the eighth grade."
That was when White's father enrolled him in an unlimited weight rec program in Laurel, and he quickly caught up with his peers.
Noticing that he was light on his feet for his size, coaches first utilized White as a fullback and middle linebacker. But the first time a play was drawn up for White to carry the ball himself, everything changed.
"They gave me the ball one time and saw what I could do," he said.
While most middle school running backs could be brought down by any contact, it would routinely take two or three tacklers to bring White down.
"If he gets a two-yard gain, he's going to make it four or five or six," Cole said.
Once he got to high school, White had developed a passion for the game, and especially the position of running back, but he would have to convince a new group of coaches and players that he wasn't just a developing defensive end masquerading as a power back.
"He was a beast as a freshman, but he was a little inexperienced," Cole said.
On JV, White played offensive tackle, defensive tackle, nose guard, defensive end and fullback. He bided his time and practiced hard and earned a promotion to varsity as a sophomore, seeing time at fullback and defensive end.
It wasn't until his junior year, when White was given a chance to carry the ball, that coaches finally started to pick up on the possibilities that an athletic, 240-pound running back presented on a high school football field.
"Some kids from my rec league had seen me run the ball, so they knew what I could do," he said.
In the first game of the season, a loss to Mt. Hebron, White broke a 30-yard run on Reservoir's opening drive and scored both of his team's touchdowns.
"His junior year we moved to a two-back set, more of a pro style offense, and he got his chance," Cole said. "He was a game changer for us and he changed the attitude of the team."
White finished the year with 450 yards and six touchdowns, and knew that he had earned his spot.
"I knew going into this season that I was going to be a senior and I was going to have a much bigger role in the offense, so I took the offseason much more seriously and spent a lot of time in the weight room," said White, who models himself after NFL power backs like Eddie Lacey, Trent Richardson, Earl Campbell and Jerome Bettis.
But even this year, White had to prove himself.