Bowling Green High head coach Kevin Wallace believes a simple gesture speaks to who Jamale Carothers is as a football player and a person.
In an era when young players imitate the showboat tactics of National Football League stars, Carothers remains old-school.
"In four years, I cannot remember a single time when Jamale scored a touchdown or picked up a first down and did not hand the ball to the official afterward," Wallace said. "It's just so symbolic of his attitude and character. Jamale treats the game and all the participants with respect."
Carothers, a dual-threat running back, is among the top prospects in the Naval Academy's 2017 recruiting class. The 5-foot-8, 187-pounder projects as a slotback in Navy's triple-option system.
"Jamale is a very dynamic player who can pretty much do it all. He's a very versatile every down back who is very good catching the ball out of the backfield and excellent at blocking in passing situations," Wallace said. "He's had an incredible high school career, been very productive for our program. Navy is getting a big-time player."
Carothers received a major honor on Thursday when he was named Mr. Football in Kentucky by the Associated Press. All media outlets in Kentucky that are AP members were eligible to vote with Carothers being chosen from a nomination field of eight seniors.
Carothers enjoyed a stellar senior season, rushing for 1,410 yards and 27 touchdowns in leading Bowling Green to the Class 5-A state championship. He added another 884 yards and 11 scores on 45 receptions as the single back in a spread offense while propelling the Purples to a 15-0 mark.
"Jamale possesses a very powerful lower body and has the ability to put his foot in the ground and make a sharp cut. He's got great speed and vision, great acceleration and burst," Wallace said. "We run a zone scheme and he understands how to read the blocking patterns and find cutback lanes."
Carothers is a four-year varsity letterman and three-year starter for one of the most successful programs in the state. Bowling Green compiled a 55-3 record and captured three state titles during his prolific career, which produced more than 6,000 all-purpose yards.
Carothers departs as Bowling Green's career leader in rushing yards (3,921) and total points (514). He was named Gatorade Player of the Year for Kentucky and first team All-State by the Louisville Courier-Journal, capping an impressive campaign by accounting for 235 yards from scrimmage and scoring five touchdowns in a 70-22 rout of Pulaski County in the 5-A final.
"Jamale has been the catalyst of an incredible run here. He's an outstanding leader who has always conducted himself in a first-class manner," Wallace said. "He is accountable and dependable, which is what every coach wants. He's very detail-oriented and does not miss assignments. He is a hungry, determined kid who has improved every year."
Ashley Ingram recruits Kentucky on behalf of Navy and quickly identified Carothers as a service academy candidate. Wallace recalls Ingram calling and telling him that "I knew in five minutes that he was one of us."
Carothers, who rushed for 1,341 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior, took an unofficial visit to Annapolis in June and said he connected with the players and coaching staff. He gave head coach Ken Niumatalolo a verbal commitment in mid-July after also considering Army, Marshall and hometown Western Kentucky.
"I know I'm doing the right thing. Me and my family talked about it a lot and we always came back to Navy," Carothers told the Bowling GreenDaily News at the time. "Just the quality of education and opportunities after graduation make it hard to pass up. I wanted to play Division I football and serve my country."
Carothers, who was nicknamed "Juice" by teammates, used one word when asked to describe himself as a player. "Electric. I've got big-play potential whenever I touch the ball," he said.
Carothers bonded with another slotback from Kentucky, Dishan Romine, while visiting the academy and the coaching staff can only hope he's as dangerous a weapon as the product of duPont Manual in Louisville. Slotbacks coach Danny O'Rourke watched film with the recruit to explain what is expected of a slot in Navy's system.
"I feel like that position is a perfect fit for what I do. I like how involved the slots are in the offense and that you are doing something important on every play," Carothers said.
Bowling Green is the same high school that produced Trent Steelman, a four-year starting quarterback at Army West Point. Steelman, whose 3,320 career rushing yards and 45 rushing touchdowns, are Army records for a quarterback, spoke to Carothers about life at a service academy.