Damone Boone is the guy who rewrote the record books, the one still remembered in local football circles, the can't-miss superstar who had a 500-yard game his senior season at West Springfield High.
Not so memorable were the two unheralded seasons at Maryland, carrying the ball nine times before dropping out of school. And then there were three years of work delivering furniture and as a security guard at Rosecroft Raceway, occasionally manning the stable gate to keep outsiders away from the horses.
Now, in northeastern Tennessee, Boone is making a comeback at Carson-Newman College. After playing little last season, Boone has rushed for 836 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He was named first-team all-South Atlantic Conference and has helped the Eagles (12-0) advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II playoffs, where they will play at Valdosta (Ga.) State (12-0) on Saturday.
"He's a great football player," Carson-Newman Coach Ken Sparks said. "It took him a while to get the rust knocked off and to learn the system, but he's an excellent football player."
That assessment has never been in doubt. As a senior at West Springfield, Boone rushed for 2,635 yards and 30 touchdowns in 10 games and was The Post's All-Met Offensive Player of the Year. Nagging injuries, academic issues and personal problems plagued his time at Maryland, though, and Boone never got on course.
"I tell people all the time," said Maryland running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Locksley, the only member of the coaching staff remaining from when Boone was at Maryland. "If Damone Boone had been able to put aside all the off-the-field things and concentrate on football, there might not have been LaMont Jordan."
Instead, with Boone struggling, Jordan became the team's featured running back and eventually was a second-round draft pick by the New York Jets.
Boone, meantime, dropped out of school and went to work to support a family that now includes his wife, 6-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter.
"When I left Maryland, [in addition to] all the problems I was going through, I didn't have the love for the game anymore," Boone said. "When I left Maryland, I just left. I didn't want to play football anymore. If you go out and play half-speed and you're not into it, you can really get hurt. I figured I wasn't going to play football anymore."
That changed, though, when someone seeking players for the XFL gave Boone a call, asking if he was interested in trying out for the start-up league.
"He was having second thoughts," said Tod Creneti, Boone's offensive coordinator at West Springfield. "I said, 'If you want to play again, why not get your degree?' "
In Division I, athletes are given five years from the time they enroll to complete their eligibility, eliminating the possibility of returning to Maryland. Creneti, whose father was the head coach at West Springfield, talked to Boone about a handful of Division II schools, including Carson-Newman, where Boone could use his remaining three years of eligibility.
Boone, who had never heard of Carson-Newman, did research. An Internet check revealed the school is located in Jefferson City, Tenn., 30 miles east of Knoxville, with an enrollment of 2,300 and is a perennial Division II contender. On behalf of Boone, Creneti called Sparks to see if he had any interest in a big-time talent who had not played for three years.
"We get calls like that all the time," Sparks said. "We've had a lot of success with guys like that. And we've had some failures, too. It sounded like somebody we needed to check into."
Boone drove to Carson-Newman to see what the school was like, and without seeing any videotape of Boone, Sparks offered him a scholarship. In fall 2001, Boone was back in college and on the football field. He was limited by injuries last season, but rushed for 123 yards and four touchdowns in the season finale, a prelude to his success this season.
"He's been great," Sparks said. "It's been fun to watch him grow."
. . . had left sport.