Don’t judge them on their height. Don’t judge them on their stalky stature, either.
Payton Atchley and Jordan Laskey are living life by the rule that the best things come in small packages. And, oh by the way, they play football by the rule as well.
The two Duncan running backs and linebackers are similar in their height and size. On the depth chart, Atchley is a hair taller at 5-foot-6 over Laskey’s 5-foot-5 listing. Laskey, on the other hand, is seven pounds heavier, listed at 168 versus Atchley’s 161.
Either way, both seem rather small for the running back and linebacker positions.
“Being short has nothing to do with how you play running back (or linebacker),” Duncan head coach Jim Holloway said. “These guys have tremendous work ethic and a lot of heart and determination. That’s why they’re good at what they do.”
Laskey has seen most of his time on the field at running back, hiding behind the big Duncan offensive line and busting through the tiniest of holes. He currently has 539 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Atchley has filled one of the weakside linebacker spot and has 46 tackles (3.5 for loss), one pass breakup and two fumble recoveries.
Both agree they use their size, or lack thereof, to their advantage.
“I like it (being smaller),” Laskey said. “When people think I’m too small, it just gives me even more motivation. My grandma always told me that since I’m small, I’ve got to lift weights to make up for it.”
Atchley added, “It’s come to a point now where I know I’m shorter, but I still feel just as tall as everyone else.”
One of Laskey’s strengths, he said, is his speed. He and Atchley said they like hiding behind the offensive line and searching for holes to open. When they do, they have a different approach through the line.
“If I ever can get into open space, that’s when I do my best,” Laskey said. “I’m pretty quick.” He then joked, “I’m jackrabbit fast.”
But Atchley prefers pounding the ball and the opponent, similar to what he does on the defensive side of the ball.
“People have a hard time seeing me and once I hit that hole, I hit it hard,” Atchley said. “And I love hitting the first person I see once I get through. It’s like ‘pop’ and I’ve got 10 yards and a first down.”
Atchley likens his game to other short running backs Jacquizz Rodgers from Oregon State, former Kansas State star and San Diego Charger Darren Sproles, and of course Oklahoma’s Quentin Griffin.
Laskey said he believes smaller backs can be just as successful as bigger running backs like Adrian Peterson.
“Short running backs are making a comeback,” he said. “It’s just a new style because with the huge offensive line, the smaller running backs are a little more powerful and fast. It seems to be the new thing, like Roy Finch up at Oklahoma. The future for smaller running backs is bright.”
For now, the Demon players must focus on the remainder of this season at Duncan. Friday night poses as the biggest game of the season on the road at Ardmore with DHS needing a win to claim the No. 2 spot in District 5A-2.
Atchley, a senior, is looking forward to getting back on the field in search of a win, which would guarantee him one more game back on his home field. Laskey, a junior, hopes help his senior teammate achieve that.
“It weighs heavily every time I look at the seniors’ faces,” Laskey said. “I know I’m fighting for something bigger than myself.”
— Ben Whitehead is the sports editor for The Duncan Banner. He can be reached at 255-5354, Ext. 165, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.