During the past three years, Long Reach Coach Pete Hughes noticed that Darryl Webb had all the physical attributes needed to excel at football. He had a big, muscular frame that's tough to guard, the speed and agility that leaves defenders flat-footed and the vertical jump that halts the double-team.
Unfortunately for Hughes, Webb was displaying these qualities for the basketball -- not football -- team. But Hughes kept envisioning what Webb, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound all-county forward, could do in shoulder pads.
"I loved the aggressiveness he played with, and I kept thinking about how good he'd be at playing football," Hughes said. "So for the past three years now, I kept asking him, 'Why don't you join our football team?' "
Howard Coach David Glenn asked junior Chris Brewington the same question last winter.
He knew the speedster had won the 2A/1A state indoor track title in the 300-meter dash and thought Brewington should play for him -- even though Brewington was a starting forward on the soccer team.
At Wilde Lake, football coach Doug DuVall watched Dennis Smith last year in "Specialty Sports" class playing flag football and liked the way the then-sophomore sprinted past classmates for long touchdowns.
"I was like, 'Holy cow, this kid is fast,' " DuVall said. "So I told him to come out for football this year, and he did."
The high school football season began Friday. And so did the football careers of several students lured to the sport by coaches who are looking for athletes regardless of their football experience.
"I think now more than ever it's important to recruit the kids in your building to come out and play football because there are so many players who can be good," Glenn said. "Kids don't have to be superstars to play a lot for a football team. They just have to know how to play their part in a system. The more athletes you get, the better you'll be."
Though many of the county's established players, such as River Hill junior quarterback Daniel Hostetler, Mount Hebron senior running back Chris Eccleston, Glenelg senior running back Trey Crayton and Long Reach junior running back Keith Richardson, played the biggest roles in leading their teams to victories Friday, the contributions by some teams' newest members did not go unnoticed.
Webb, a tight end, came across the middle to catch an 18-yard touchdown pass in Long Reach's 40-0 season-opening victory over Reservoir.
"It was my last year in high school, so it was like, 'Why not play football?' " Webb said. "I'm not worried about getting injured. You know, LeBron James was a really good high school football player, too. I think football will toughen me up."
Brewington, a safety and kickoff specialist, made several tackles and recovered a fumble in a 31-0 victory over Oakland Mills. Last year, he scored six goals for the soccer team.
"Football is more fun for me than soccer was because football is more of a team," Brewington said. "I was really nervous because I was going to make a mistake. I missed a tackle, but I made up for it when I recovered the fumble. Now, when I kick off, it's like trying to kick a soccer ball over the goal."
"I'd love to have Chris because he's a very good athlete, and if he was playing soccer he'd be playing a lot for us," said Howard soccer coach Brian Boussy. "But he wanted to play football, and that's his choice."
Smith, who started at cornerback, recorded a few tackles and broke up a long pass that DuVall said saved a touchdown in Wilde Lake's 48-6 win over Centennial.
Some coaches don't believe it's necessary to persuade players to come out for football.
"I'm not going to waste my time and sweet talk kids to come out and play, because if they want to play, they'll come out and play," Glenelg Coach John Davis said. "I've learned that the more attention you give a kid, the less they want to come out. If you tell them that they could be good and they come out and they're not, it hurts their confidence, and that's something I don't want to do."
River Hill Coach Brian Van Deusen, whose team defeated Atholton, 26-6, said he focuses on improving the players he has instead of trying to find new ones. He feels that Hostetler, junior tight end Greg Nowak, and senior running backs Kevin Magan and Darol Smith have excelled because they've been with the program for three or four years.
"With the exception of our kicker [Chris Martello], everyone on our team this year has been with us since they were freshmen and have worked their way up," Van Deusen said.
However, Hughes said that as soon as he arrived at school Monday, he was going to talk to soccer players to see whether they knew of anybody interested in being the football team's place kicker.
"I think once you get a new player and he does well right away, like Darryl, more kids who are focusing on one sport will want to come out and play football," Hughes said. "Football is different. The team is bigger than basketball or soccer, and I think a lot of kids want to play with their friends. I think you are going to see more and more surprises on a lot of teams every year."