Camden linebacker and running back Nyair Graham still watches the play from last season on Hudl.com to this day.
Running back Nazir Dale received a handoff and powered through the hole to the second level. But once he got there, he was forced to improvise after his shoe fell off as a Pemberton safety attempted to tackle him.
“I saw another hole, so I just spun my way through all of the traffic,” said Dale, a sophomore.
With one shoe on, Dale darted around the whole Hornets football team and ran up the sideline into the end zone for his first career touchdown.
“That was something special,” Graham said.
“He came to the sideline and he was really tired because he had to cut back and everything,” Graham added. “But I pulled him to the side, gave him a handshake and said, ‘Keep it up, boy, your time is coming.’ ”
Graham’s message on the sideline that night was accurate.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound tailback has emerged as the workhorse for a 6-1 Panthers squad. Camden’s upperclassmen running backs. Dashaun Harris and Imir Catoe. were injured in games this year, and Dale filled the void.
Dale has 837 rushing yards on 72 carries, with nine touchdowns. He averages 11.6 yards per carry and had back-to-back games against Pemberton and Pennsauken when he rushed for more than 240 yards.
“Since he was in youth football, he’s always been that running back that pretty much carried the team,” Camden coach Dwayne Savage said. “Right now, he’s at that level.”
Savage added that Dale’s patient style of running has benefited him in Camden’s offense.
Whenever Dale has a moment of free time, including during lunch at school, he’ll watch tape of New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell on YouTube.
Dale said he attempts to replicate how Barkley and Bell move their feet and find holes for themselves so he can give his teammates pointers on run blocking.
“If my offensive line is doing better, I think I’ll do better,” Dale said. “On some days where they’re having bad days, I think I have bad days.”
During the offseason, Dale played flag football with Land of Opportunity, a youth sports organization in Camden, to improve his speed and cuts he could make on the field.
Dale also worked out in the weight room with Graham to make his arms and legs stronger to become more of a power running back. Dale said he gained 10-15 pounds from his freshman to sophomore year.
“We just want it more,” Graham said. “We have so much to prove, he has so much to prove.”
When Dale played youth football for Whitman Park in Merchantville, he said coaches, parents, and teammates used to call him the “best running back in South Jersey.”
But Dale doesn’t want to have that title yet. He wants to prove he’s the best running back in South Jersey and that his Panthers are the best team. He’ll have a chance to showcase that on Friday in a West Jersey Constitution game against Willingboro.
“He’s one of those guys that we’re going to be counting on to get us over that next hump,” Savage said. “For him to start emerging and some of the things that he’s doing, hitting the weights, and his hard running, he’s really been helping us out.”