For Statesboro running back Michael Summers, this year has been a homecoming. For the rest of the Blue Devils, it’s meant the addition of yet another threat in their offense.
Summers has done a little bit of everything for Statesboro this season, providing power and speed at tailback and filling in at quarterback to lead the Devils to two wins.
“I just do whatever the coaches tell me to and whatever will help the team most,” said Summers. “I like doing all of those things – playing quarterback, running back and receiver. You need to have different mindsets for all of those, but I like the challenge.”
As great as he has been this season, Summers has someone to chase when it comes to success on the football field, and it’s right down the hallway in his house.
From 1980-84, Mike Summers, Sr. starred at running back for Jenkins County. In addition to earning All-Region honors, Summers, Sr. still holds the career rushing mark for the Eagles with over 4,000 yards.
He went on to start for four years at South Carolina State and made it as far as signing a contract with the Indianapolis Colts.
Now, the elder Summers is content to look on as his son picks up right where he left off.
“I think that Michael has more talent and athleticism than I did at his age,” said Summers, Sr. “But the biggest thing is his desire.
“I’ve had success in football and I don’t feel any need to live through him. I just want him to do what makes him happy, but for him, that’s football. He’ll talk to me about what he can do to get better and he’s always working own his own to improve.”
Although Summers, Sr. might be in a better position than most parents to help a son in his football pursuits, home life and athletic endeavors are two separate things in the Summers family.
“My job is to be a parent and help my children in life, not just sports,” said Summers, Sr. “I’ve known (SHS coach) Steve Pennington for almost twenty years. That coaching staff does a great job with their players. I’m here to help those kids and talk to them about football if they want, but the biggest priority is focusing on school and getting a good education.
“The best part of my football playing experience was the great education I received in college. That’s what has helped me to be successful. Football is fun, but it doesn’t last forever. A good education does, so if you can use football to help get a scholarship and an education, that’s even better.”
Of course, while playing football is left entirely up to him, Summers, Jr. doesn’t mind having his father’s lofty success to strive towards.
“I think it helps to drive me,” said Summers, Jr. “He’s definitely my biggest role model. My dad knows the kind of dedication that it takes to succeed in football and in life.”
That closeness is part of what kept Michael out of a Blue Devil uniform until this season. Growing up in Statesboro, Summers, Jr. attended middle school and played with many of his current teammates, but moved to Savannah and enrolled at Benedictine when his father — who is involved in real estate and trucking — moved to Savannah for work.
“It was kind of tough leaving,” said Summers, Jr. “I love Statesboro and playing with all of these guys, but my dad and me thought it was more important to spend time with each other.”
Now that he’s back in town, Summers, Jr. is making up for lost time. He led the Devils in rushing through two games, but was sidelined with an ankle injury for two more. When he was healthy enough to return to action, Summers, Jr. was called on to replace an injured Reid Pennington behind center and performed admirably in Statesboro’s sub-region wins over Lakeside and Effingham County.
Last week, Summers, Jr. returned to his spot at tailback and delivered his best performance of the season, rushing for 107 yards and a touchdown and also hauling in a deflected pass and racing downfield for another score.
Now - as he has reacquainted with his old teammates, healed from his injury, and gained playing time at tailback and quarterback – Summers, Jr. and the rest of the Blue Devils set their sights on winning the region and making some noise in the postseason.
“I think everything is starting to come around,” said Summers, Jr. “We’re playing well on both sides of the ball and we’re all working really well together. If we just keep doing our jobs, I think that we can go a long way.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.