Olympia running back John Armstrong scrolled through the Sentinel’s 2013 Central Florida Super60 prospect rankings upon the recent update.
When he had checked a week before, Armstrong was ranked No. 22 and hopeful that he could climb up the list. But as he skimmed past No. 22, he realized he had gone in the other direction.
Finally he found his name.
It was at that moment Armstrong was over rankings.
“I was actually 22, and then a week later my score dropped. I don’t know why,” Armstrong said. “I really don’t look at the rankings anymore … I didn’t make the Top 100 in Florida. I just use that as motivation, to go stronger and harder.”
His frustration is understandable. Thanks to his 4.4 speed, cutting ability and his pass-catching skills, Armstrong has been Olympia’s featured back for multiple years.
He set the school’s rushing record (surpassing NFL Pro Bowl running back Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans) and has the bloodlines — cousins with former Edgewater stars Quincy McDuffie (UCF) and Alton Howard (Tennessee) — to indicate that his skill-set can be utilized beyond the high-school level.
The biggest and perhaps only real tangible knock on Armstrong is his lack of prototypical size. At 5-foot-7, 161 pounds, Armstrong is undoubtedly on the small side. It’s the primary reason why he isn’t ranked higher on the Super60 or considered to be one of the top prospects in Florida’s loaded 2013 running back class.
Armstrong used to think his size would hold him back. But with two offers already on the table — Cincinnati was his first and FIU came through late last week — Armstrong is confident that height won’t keep him off the grid among college coaches.
“Before, I did, my freshman and sophomore year,” said Armstrong, who ran for 1,101 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2011. “As the years go on, I see smaller players in college and the NFL. I say to myself that it’s not going to matter. You have to have a big heart, tough running and no injuries.”
Besides, it doesn’t matter if Armstrong is 5-foot-7 or 6-foot-7, defenders would still struggle to catch him when he finds a crease.
“I like to say, ‘you got to catch me first,’ ” he said.
Armstrong said that his recent offer from FIU is a sign that schools are interested. And said he believes there will be more offers on the horizon.
“I get a lot of mail from Miami. Illinois, I just got a couple of letters from them saying how they want me. South Florida, UCF,” Armstrong said. “Well a lot of schools tell me they’re going to come down and watch me in the spring and planning on offering, so I’m kind of counting on that. I’ve been working hard so when they do come down, I’ll be ready to go and they can see what I can do.”
Coming up, Armstrong plans to visit both UCF and FIU with Olympia defensive end Ramar Dennis, who is ranked No. 28 on the Sentinel’s Central Florida Super60. The duo will visit UCF this weekend for the school’s junior day. Dennis was at the Knights' practice last weekend and told Armstrong that UCF was asking for him.
“They said they love me and they want me to visit,” said Armstrong, who was competing in a track meet last weekend. “Basically, they want me there.”
At the end of the day, hearing things like that matters a lot more to Armstrong than rankings.
Brendan Sonnone is the Sentinel's recruiting correspondent and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Brendan on Twitter at @BSonnone or Facebook at Brendan Sonone or at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting.
TOP 2013 CENTRAL FLORIDA RUNNING BACKS 2013 S60 PLAYER HT WT SCHOOLYARDS TDs 4 A.J. Turman 6-0 205 Orlando Boone 1,324 14 14 Marcus Dixon 5-9 190 Daytona Beach Seabreeze 2,213 38 16 Stafon McCray 5-11 185 Kissimmee Osceola 1,450 15 18 JoJo Kemp 5-10 190 DeLand 1,272 14 20 Eric Harrell 5-11 165 Orlando Dr. Phillips 1,135 14 31 John Armstrong 5-7 161 Orlando Olympia 1,101 14 44 Ronnie Moore 5-10 160 Sanford Seminole INJ 48 Brandon English 5-8 180 Orlando Evans 809 9 49 Jon Altman 5-8 170 Orlando Edgewater 1,181 9 51 Ray Lewis 5-9 175 Lake Mary Prep2,321 28