At first glance, Roger Boone probably doesn't make much impression on opposing defenses. The 5-foot-8, 160-pound Lake Braddock running back appears to be an easy target, running behind the Bruins' smallish offensive line.
Once the game begins, defenses don't have time to think of fear or anything else, except trying to find and tackle Boone, Northern Virginia's leading rusher. The senior has run for 1,140 yards on 151 carries and is the main reason Lake Braddock is 5-2.
Boone, who has scored six touchdowns, has rushed more than 200 yards three times, including an incredible 20-carry, 290-yard performance in a victory over Oakton. His success this season isn't surprising since he ran for 358 yards in four starts as a sophomore and 1,348 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior.
He has worked hard to improve. Saturdays are film days for the Bruins, and he spends three hours studying game films and rating his performance. The Bruins coaches grade each player and Boone's marks have been good. An A student in the classroom, he also grades well on the field, doing the right thing on 274 of 356 plays.
"That's what makes Roger," said Lake Braddock Coach Joe Clark. "He is able to evaluate the whole picture and understand what he does wrong. He then applies that knowledge in games."
Boone doesn't just study himself on films. How he views the films shows that he is a team player.
"Of course I look for plays that might work against a team, but I look a lot at defensive ends and linebackers, since those are the players I usually have to block.
Boone's size indicates he probably would be a scatback, in the Joe Washington mold. But he runs as effectively inside the tackles as outside. Against Annandale early this season, Boone appeared to be stopped in the middle of the line. But he broke free from the pile and ran for a long touchdown.
"He is much stronger than his size indicates. He's like a little Walter Payton," said Clark. "He gets a great start out of the backfield and many times hits the hole before the defense can react. But he also has excellent leg drive and always keeps his feet moving. He isn't often tackled by one guy."
That is evidenced by the fact that Boone has been tackled for losses of just 10 yards, despite defenses designed to stop him.
"When defenses key on me, they are usually just yelling plays and guessing what we are going to do," Boone said. "Sometimes they are right, but most times they are wrong. It's just a guessing game for them."
Boone, who also is the holder on field goal and point after touchdown attempts, set personal goals at the beginning of the season, but tries to forget them and his 1,140 yards now.
"I'll look back on the totals after the season is over and they will probably make me happy," he said. "But now I do my best not to think of them because I want the team to win."
Boone's high school athletic competition doesn't end after the football season. He competes in the 55-yard dash, hurdles and long and triple jumps in indoor track and plays lacrosse in the spring. It's no surprise that he is in sports since his older brother Greg plays for the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL and his younger sister Dana is an all-America long jumper at Lake Braddock.
Boone doesn't want this to be his final football season. He wants to play football in college, and Virginia Tech, Duke, Wake Forest and North Carolina State are among the schools that have contacted him.
"Any good player like Roger has God-given ability," said Clark. "But he is so intelligent and he responds extremely well to coaching. He's a hungry player; he wants to improve each and every week.