Published December 25. 2012 4:00AM Updated December 26. 2012 12:04AM
The greatest fault of the sports media is its penchant to force the marriage of success and character to superior athletes, characteristics that are mutually exclusive.
Occasionally, though, they fit. And the state sports media discovered as much in the wake of Xavier's victory over Norwich Free Academy in the Class LL football finals at Rentschler Field. They made their way to the press box to file their stories, making frequent mention of NFA junior Marcus Outlow's comportment.
Outlow, perhaps the player most observers wanted to see that night on the grand stage, was rendered helpless by an ankle injury a few plays into the game. And yet neither fate's cruelty nor the disappointment of the final score altered Outlow's outlook.
"They (Xavier) deserved it," Outlow said. "It's just unfortunate that I couldn't play to my full potential tonight. I was excited because the game plan was to get me the ball 30 times tonight, maybe even more.
"It just sucks that I came out here, and the one game this season that mattered the most, I got hurt. I could've taken it earlier in the season. I would've been fine with that. But to get here and have it happen, it's just unfortunate."
Outlow looked his inquisitors in the eye when he spoke and never once uttered anything close to a woe-is-me. All this and over 1,000 rushing yards this season from The Day's Player of the Year.
"We know we have a special player," NFA coach Jemal Davis said.
Indeed. And they'll have him again next year. Outlow will likely enter the 2013 season as the state's feature player. He surely made his way to the radar during this postseason when he helped the Wildcats defeat Newtown and Staples, all the way to the state finals.
Soon, Outlow's story became state news. Many of the nation's top football schools have some interest in him: Oregon, Alabama, Florida, Clemson, Ohio State, Michigan, BC, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and UConn. Not all have offered scholarships. But now that he's between his junior and senior year of high school, they may be forthcoming.
Especially if this offseason mirrors the last.
"Last offseason we sat down and talked about what we needed to do to play at next level. Marcus committed himself to doing that by going to various combines. Then he made it to a special combine in Oklahoma and he was rated one of the top backs in his class."
Davis alluded to the National Underclassmen Combine. This is what was written about him a few months before his senior season commenced:
"Outlow was one of the most impressive looking players. His physical attributes are very special. … He already has the build and speed of a Division One running back. … He was able to beat the linebackers with his speed and he can match the linebackers in physicality."
Outlow and his family moved here from Philadelphia when he was 12. He describes himself as "a city boy," and grinned at the memory of seeing so many trees in this corner of the world. His sister plays basketball for the NFA girls. They are part of the scenery here now.
"Marcus is definitely ready. A great head on his shoulders," says teammate Ryer Caruso, who drives Outlow home from practice every day. "He's ready to take on the world. A very smart kid."