One of the best runs of the college football season took place Saturday at 5,000-seat Roebuck Stadium on the campus of Elizabeth City (N.C.) State University, where Bowie State senior Rob Chesson took a handoff in the shadow of his own goal line and . . . was almost immediately stopped in his tracks.
“It was a cutback read, and I ran into the back of one of my teammates,” Chesson, the former Old Mill standout and 2011 All-Met Offensive Player of the Year, said in a phone interview this week. “There wasn’t a hole there, so I said, ‘Shoot, I got to reroute.’ As I rerouted toward the sideline, No. 7, he tried to make contact with me. After I made him miss, my amazing footwork just came into play and I got some amazing blocks from my teammates who followed me down the field.”
Chesson’s highlight-reel-worthy touchdown run was officially 97 yards, but he covered more distance than that in the 25 seconds it took him to weave his way down the field. Chesson zigged and zagged, and then zigged again to avoid ECSU’s No. 7, defensive back Larenzo Holley, for a second time en route to the end zone. It was one of seven rushing touchdowns on the day for Chesson, who rushed for a Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association single-game record 304 yards on 20 carries and also had a touchdown reception in the Bulldogs’ 77-21 win.
“Before I got in the game for that play, a lot of my teammates on the sideline were saying, ‘Rob’s about to take it to the crib,'” Chesson said. “I didn’t actually believe it until we lined up and snapped the ball. It was an amazing feeling. I felt real energized, like something I’ve never felt before. I had endless energy and I didn’t actually feel it until after the play. I was determined to score and I had an extra battery.”
Chesson’s 97-yard touchdown run was like something out of a video game, the type of play that prompts the person controlling the virtual defenders to chuck his controller in disgust.
“I definitely get my jukes from Madden,” said Chesson, who lists playing video games as his hobby in the Bowie State football media guide. “Ever since I was younger, I would always apply Madden moves to real life.”
Chesson has rushed for 1,332 yards and 20 touchdowns this season for the 9-1 Bulldogs, who are waiting to find out their opponent for the first round of the Division II playoffs. He said Saturday’s run was the best of his college career, even though it wasn’t his longest. That came last season, a 98-yard jaunt in a 50-48 loss to Seton Hill.
“On that run, I didn’t have to do as much,” Chesson said. “I just cut back and hit the sideline and used my speed. This run was really unique because I had to use my footwork and my ability to avoid tacklers. I got a chance to showcase my talent and my vision.”
The best route — to the end zone, or general success in life — isn’t always the most direct, as Chesson can attest. He had scholarship offers from Buffalo and Towson but didn’t have the grades to enroll after leading the region in rushing and setting a Maryland single-season record with 49 touchdowns as a senior at Old Mill. Since graduating high school, Chesson took a year off from football, had a son, Robert Chesson II, and played one season at West Virginia Wesleyan before transferring to Bowie State. Saturday’s game was his best individual performance since he rushed for 312 yards and seven touchdowns in Old Mill’s Maryland 4A semifinal win over Catsonsville in 2011. Chesson said he expects to graduate in May and is considering hiring an agent to help him pursue a football career beyond college.
“I would really like to go to the next level,” he said. “I think I have the skill set for it.”
After Saturday, he has another highlight, too.
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