Dragons LB has talent to burn

Posted Monday, Jul. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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J.B. Copeland is just one of those athletes you just roll your eyes at with both frustration and admiration.

A Division I prospect in football at outside linebacker at Carroll – Copeland has offers from New Mexico State and Texas State – he was encouraged to run track so he could improve his speed.

It turns out that not only did he improve, he became pretty good at it – make that really good.

Running the anchor leg in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays and 200 sprint events, he helped win or won those events at the District 4-5A meet in April.

What makes Copeland’s story incredulous is that he had never run track prior to his junior year. His passion is football. Copeland is entering his senior year as a three-year starter for the football team. And he’s going to play it in college. That’s why the eyes roll.

“I just did track because my coaches asked me,” he said. “I ran the 100 in JV and in my first event, I ran 10.8 (seconds). That was faster than I or anyone else thought. I don’t think anyone expected that. I don’t like the practices because it’s just a different way of doing things. But I got used to them.”

There are just some athletes who just “have it” when it comes to running with speed. Yes, an athlete can always work on fundamentals and training to improve. But there’s nothing short of being blessed with the talent. How else can you explain winning the district meet in the 200 with personal best time of 21.7 seconds?

Well, Copeland certainly didn’t think he was fast. He termed his sophomore year pretty slow. But something changed during his junior year. Hence, the encouragement to go to track.

“He just has a great attitude,” Carroll track coach Renae Osborne said. “He really did a great job improving his speed. His leadership and dedication during this last spring track season will show on the football field this fall.”

Football coaches have always had a passion for either seeking track athletes or pushing their athletes toward the sport. Building and maintaining speed are behind it. However, there is still a difference between track speed and football speed.

“But you’re right…speed is speed,” Copeland said. “Things were just getting to the point where I’m getting faster. I really didn’t think the track was going to help but I could see where I’m in the open field, breaking down and just getting to the ball.

While he did not run with a club track team this summer, he definitely maintained his running. Copeland was a member of Carroll’s state champion 7-on-7 squad.

When football is over in the fall, Copeland plans to run track his senior year. And maybe the performance could help another Division I school take notice. Other schools have shown interest but may want to see how he performs during the non-district season before they offer. Louisiana Tech, Purdue and Navy appear to be showing the most interest.

A little success can change someone’s opinion of a sport. That’s the case with Copeland.

“I like track now,” he said. “At the end of the day, I know I can hit my stride and find success. Once I get it going, it made me realize it will help me.”

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