Lake Mary freshman running back Marquis Mickens was quite surprised last week when he was offered a scholarship during a visit to the campus of Troy University in Alabama.
Mickens has been a highly touted running back since being named All-American as a youth player, but it still came as a surprise to 5-foot-9, 198-pounder, who ran for 550 yards and eight touchdowns on 131 carries during his first varsity season this past fall.
"I was up there visiting and just looking at the campus and saw their spring game," said Mickens, who was at Troy with fellow Lake Mary running back and his cousin C.J. Lamar, who was also offered a scholarship by Trojans running backs coach Jeff Beckles. "He said their offense is similar to our offense [at Lake Mary] and that I would fit perfectly in their offense.
"It was a really big surprise for him to offer me at an early age, as a freshman. It feels good and makes me want to work harder. I was just like, 'Wow.' "
Mickens came up in the Oviedo school district, but at the urging of Lamar, his family decided to move over to the Lake Mary district prior to high school. It worked out quite well in the first season, with Lamar taking the brunt of the short-yardage carries as the bigger back at 6-2, 208 pounds. Lamar ran for 358 yards and six touchdowns on 84 carries.
"I like it. It's like Thunder and Lightning," Mickens laughed. "People could call us that."
It's still early for the freshman but he realizes that once his first offer comes, other colleges are likely to take notice.
"It just lets me know that colleges are looking at me and noticing me," Mickens said. "[Troy] is a good school, a really good school. I liked the campus and the football team and the atmosphere was really good."
He said he's pleased he made the decision to join the Lake Mary program, which went through the season unbeaten last year before losing its first game to Jacksonville First Coast 35-16 in the second round of the state Class 8A playoffs. The Rams finished 11-1.
"It's just been real good. I'm glad I made the right choice to come over here to Lake Mary," said Mickens, who also said he'd like to see Georgia be one of the schools to offer him in the future.
Lake Mary freshman coach Craig Daniels also made the trip to Troy with Mickens and Lamar, and Daniels can't say enough good things about his young runner.
"[Troy coaches] just love his attitude and his work ethic and he has really, really good grades. He's made the honor roll all three quarters his year and he's still on the honor roll, which is a big deal for us," Daniels said. "He's a special kid; not your typical freshman at all."
With Lamar and Mickens in the backfield together, Lake Mary can keep the defenses guessing.
"It just makes us a lot more versatile and allows us to run a lot more different formations," Daniels said of the luxury that Lake Mary offensive coordinator Adam Donnelly has. "They are different players and it allows us to put C.J. out in the slot and spread him out a little bit and you know, you kind of pick your poison when you play us now. With Marquis and Nick Westbrook [wide receiver] and C.J. and Cannon [Thompson, QB] ... we just have a lot of offensive threats and it makes us a lot more difficult to defend.
"It's exciting and we just have to put them in the right places and I think we can be successful."
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting, and on Instagram at os_recruiting.