The high school coaches of North Carolina have selected Charlotte Catholic's Elijah Hood as the NCPreps.com's Pre-Season Player of the Year. Hood, a running back/linebacker has verbally committed to Notre Dame.
Hood handles business on and off the Gridiron
By Langston Wertz Jr., Charlotte Observer
CHARLOTTE -- Roll Toilet was not Elijah Hood's greatest moment.
One of the nation's top high school football recruits, and Hood is ranked as high as the No. 13 overall player in the land, the 17-year-old teen took to social media one night in June to post a video to his followers on Vine, a Twitter-like app that allows users to post videos instead of 150-character messages.
Hood, who has committed to Notre Dame, is a big practical joker and he decided that it would be funny to take a gaggle of recruiting letters he'd received from national champion Alabama and video himself flushing them down the toilet. And as he did it, Hood mocked Alabama's famous "Roll Tide" chant.
So Hood flushed the letters down the toilet, filming the whole thing with his iPhone, and as the white envelopes with the Alabama Crimson Tide-colored lettering circled the bowl, Hood said, "Roll Toilet."
He took a beating on message boards and on Twitter and in some newspapers. Most of the people who took him to task were probably right to do so, but they don't know Hood. He apologized. I think he meant it. It was joke gone wrong. I think he'll learn from it.
By all accounts around Catholic, Hood is a classy kid who respects authority and does things the right way. I spent a day with him in school last fall and found that the only folks at Charlotte Catholic who love Elijah Hood more than the teachers are the students.
Catholic freshman Emily Daly had never spoken to Hood when I asked her about him late last year. Yet, through a huge smile, she had plenty to say about the Cougars' most popular student. "He's really nice," Daly said. "The kids here, they all look up to him because he's such a good role model. He's huge here."
His teachers say Hood comes to class, does his own work and is a stellar student. Around school, if you could look past his hulking physique -- and Hood already looks like a college senior -- you could confuse Hood for any other student on campus. "The kids say he's so humble and so bright and so friendly," Charlotte Catholic principal Jerry Healy said, "that half the time they forget he's as good as he is." And he's really, really good.
As the 2013 high school football season kicks off, Hood is North Carolina's top player. He's 6-foot-1, 220 pounds and runs a 4.5 second 40-yard dash.
In 25 years of covering high school sports for the Observer, I've seen lots of great running backs, guys like A.L. Brown's Nick Maddox, Central Cabarrus' Natrone Means, Albemarle's TA McLendon and even more contemporary guys like Tarboro's Todd Gurley or Northern Guilford's T.J. Logan who ran for a N.C record 510 yards and eight touchdowns in a state championship win over Hood's Catholic team last December.
The best running back I'd ever seen in my career was West Charlotte's Brian Knuckles, who had Hood's size, sprinter's speed and incredible vision. Knuckles, a two-time Charlotte Observer player of the year in 1990 and '91, ended up at Nebraska, then Tailback U.
In my view, Hood rivals Knuckles as the best I've ever seen. Hood has a speed burst that simply isn't fair for a guy his size and he has the ability to break tackles, like I've never quite seen. It's a package of balance, speed, strength and athleticism that borrows from all of the other great running backs I've seen but never quite been all combined into one guy -- until now.
And when you play Catholic, a Wing-T team, you know what's coming: Hood left, Hood right, and Hood up the middle. Everyone gears up to stop him. Hood still ran for a Mecklenburg County record 3,309 yards and county record 48 touchdowns last season. In two years, he's racked up an astonishing 5,291 yards and 83 touchdowns.
Hood feels like he's just getting started. "I feel like I can be better," Hood told me this month, when we were done talking about "Roll Toilet." "I'm working hard to be better. I want to try to help my team win a state championship."
I wouldn't bet against him doing either thing.