Imhotep senior running back Mike Waters might have quit football all together early in his career if not for a few simple words from his coach.
Waters was a sophomore then, splitting carries with other talented runners and feeling like he had no room to shine.
"In the beginning I was ready to just give up," said Waters, a 5-foot-10, 192-pounder. "I didn't want to play football anymore. I wasn't getting the ball and wasn't able to show my talents. My coach [Albie Crosby] just kept saying he had my back, so I just had to ride it out with him."
Now, Waters, a Public League record-holder, will lead the Panthers (13-0, 6-0) into a Class AAA semifinal matchup against District 11 Saucon Valley Friday at 7 p.m. at Bethlehem Area School District Stadium.
Last week, Waters led the Panthers with 146 rushing yards, and added three more touchdowns to his single-season Public League record, which is 37 (35 rushing).
"Everything happens for a reason," Waters said. "My coach always says do the little things and the big things will follow. By me doing the little things and being patient and humble, my time is coming and everything is happening at the right time for me."
When Waters arrived at Imhotep, David Williams (South Carolina) was the man in the backfield.
Nasir Bonner (now at Marist) and Tyliek Raynor were also among ballcarriers.
Bonner later transferred to Del-Val Charter. Raynor stayed at Imhotep and eventually emerged as a star.
However, an early season injury to Raynor, who has committed to Arizona, meant Waters shouldered the majority of the Panthers' ground work this season.
But Waters' contribution doesn't end there.
After another teammate succumbed to injury during 7-on-7 play this past summer, Waters stepped in at linebacker and has continued at the position this season.
In the Panthers' AAA District 12 title win against seven-time defending champ Archbishop Wood, Waters made a diving, fourth-quarter interception that gave Imhotep possession for good with 5 minutes, 53 seconds remaining.
Waters has one college offer from Monmouth but also said Villanova and Delaware saw him play last week.
When asked if he preferred to play offense or defense in college, Waters' answer was perhaps predictable of someone who is already practiced in the art of patiently waiting for opportunities.
"Most of the colleges right now look at me at the athlete (position) because they can put me anywhere on the field," Waters said. "I just want to make it (anywhere) at the next level."