Making some big strides

The Baltimore Sun

Guests need to watch their step when entering the bedroom of Hereford running back Lonnie Liggins. The Bulls' leading rusher wouldn't want anyone tripping over his shoes.

With a sneaker collection that includes Air Jordans, Air Force Ones and practically every other "Air," the soft-spoken senior with a knack for making big plays could give Foot Locker a run for its money should he decide to open up shop. Not that he'd want to get rid of any of his prized possessions.

"Shoes are kind of my thing," Liggins said of his collection, which formed a multicolored perimeter around his bedroom floor, making for easy access to them.

The latest and greatest in athletic footwear seem to always find their way to the Liggins' townhouse, but perhaps the most important pair of shoes Liggins owns isn't in his bedroom. Simple and well-worn, his black, low-top football cleats reside in his locker, and it is those shoes that Liggins will wear tonight when the Bulls (12-0) host Charles County's Lackey (7-5) in a Class 3A state semifinal.

For Liggins, who has rushed for more than 1,200 yards this season as the featured back in Hereford's wing T offense, tonight's game marks the final step in his quest to get back to the state championship game. As a freshman, Liggins started at defensive back when the Bulls lost to Potomac, 19-12, in the final.

"I look at this as unfinished business," Liggins said of his motivation for leading his team to a title. "I owe this to the program for helping me become the player I am now."

Admittedly overconfident as a freshman, Liggins has earned the respect of his teammates and coaches with his work ethic and selflessness.

"He's really matured this year as a leader," said Hereford coach Steve Turnbaugh, who has coached Liggins all four years. "He was always a good athlete, but as a freshman, he had a lot of growing up to do, particularly when things didn't go his way. His growth from an attitude standpoint, from his freshman year to now, has been unbelievable."

Though not prototypical in size (Liggins is listed at 5 feet 8 and 180 pounds), his work in the offseason got the attention of college coaches, particularly when he won the Running Back Most Valuable Player award at the prestigious Nike Football Training Camp, getting the nod over more highly touted prospects such as Dunbar's Tavon Austin.

He also has impressed coaches with his work in the weight room, where a quick check of the wall reveals Liggins' name at or near the top of every weightlifting category, from bench press (a team-best 315 pounds) to squats (410).

Liggins has 26 touchdowns this season and seems to have found another gear in the playoffs. In the regional semifinals, he took the opening kickoff 99 yards for a score and followed that with an interception return for a touchdown in the regional final. That kind of game-breaking ability makes him an attractive candidate for college coaches who like to use multiple formations on offense.

Among the colleges he said are looking at him are Virginia, Duke, Syracuse, Army and Navy. Liggins, who has a 3.5 grade point average, has visited West Point and said he has a verbal offer from the Black Knights to play football there.

For now, however, Liggins is focused on helping the Bulls win a state title. And possibly eyeing his next pair of sneakers.

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