Two Rudder football players stayed late to run routes and throw the ball Monday, even after practice ran long.
Senior receiver Marcus Diles was one of them.
The extra sessions on the Rangers’ grass practice field have become normal for Diles. Over the summer, Diles, junior quarterback EJ Ezar and senior receiver Keithron Lee often met there or Jane Long Intermediate’s old football field to run routes and do footwork drills. The voluntary sessions often occurred between 3-5 p.m. in the sweltering summer heat.
“It brought us together more than teammates,” Diles said. “We wanted to be better than everybody else just to show Rudder’s got something to prove. That’s our motto: something to prove.”
All of those blistering afternoons have already bore fruit for Rudder (2-0). According to MaxPreps.com, Ezar leads all Class 5A and 6A quarterbacks in passing with 827 yards. Lee leads the two classifications in receiving yards (416). Diles has become the Rangers’ No. 2 receiver behind Lee and is second on the team in receptions (nine), receiving yards (177) and receiving touchdowns (two).
“They work so hard and the hard work has really shown on the field,” Rudder coach Eric Ezar said. “It’s just really great to see a kid who gets it, puts the work in and then gets the reward out of it. He’s been phenomenal.”
Football has been a part of Diles’ life since he was 6 years old when he began playing Pop Warner, but it took until his senior year for him to flourish. As a kid, he played quarterback but switched to receiver in middle school at Sam Rayburn. He earned a spot on varsity as a sophomore at Rudder but didn’t become a full-time starter until this fall.
“Last year as a junior, he was kind of just learning the stuff,” Coach Ezar said. “He wasn’t quite a leader yet and he wasn’t the guy he became. In the offseason, he started coming early and lifting weights and really bought in to what we’re selling. He’s been a great leader. I think he made straight As for the first time ever.”
Diles’ hard work on and off the field earned him the honor of being one of Rudder’s team captains this season. He said his approach is to lead by example and added he hopes he can play well enough this season to earn a college scholarship.
“This year I feel like I’m making more of an impact,” Diles said. “I’m a leader. I have to keep my players in check and let them know when they’re doing wrong. I always bring hard work to the table.”
Diles and the Rangers hope to keep their early season success going this week when they host Nacogdoches at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Merrill Green Stadium. The Rangers had to reschedule their Week 3 game Wednesday when Waco University canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. Nacogdoches is 1-0 after beating Saginaw Boswell 26-21 last week.
NOTES — Rudder’s EJ Ezar was named the Built Ford Tough Texas High School Player of the Week for Class 5A on Wednesday. Ezar completed 22 of 27 passes for 425 yards and ran six times for 209 yards in Rudder’s 63-56 win over Pflugerville Weiss on Friday.