The Annapolis football team was just about to wrap up a two-hour summer workout. They had already run and lifted weights; all that remained were a few technique and conditioning drills.
On one side of the field, coach Brian Brown set up a "ladder drill" (also known as glorified hopscotch). He laid down a set of crisscrossed ropes, which form a rectangular obstacle course that players must traverse without tripping the ropes. Running a ladder drill requires precision, stamina and speed. It's hard enough to complete it without any outside hindrances.
Just don't tell that to Demond Brown.
Before the drill started, Brown, Annapolis' star running back, grabbed a 12-pound medicine ball from the gym. He proceeded to run the drill -- his legs pumping, his feet whirring like a bicycle spoke -- while thrusting the ball above his head. It's like trying to leap over hurdles with a child on your back. But Brown made nary a mistake.
"When I saw him do that I was like, What is he thinking?" Brian Brown said. "But he's one of those kids that will run at six in the morning and then come to workouts and weight lifting after he's done. He wants to be good and he's willing to work hard to be good. He'll go the extra mile for you."
1.4 miles to be exact. In two seasons in the Panthers' backfield, the 5-foot-8, 175-pound junior has lugged almost a mile-and-a-half on the ground. As a sophomore starter, Demond ran for 1,058 yards and seven touchdowns in just nine games. Last season he dashed for 1,345 yards and 16 scores, which ranked top 20 in the state.
"I just put in the time and I'm just glad all my hard work paid off," Demond said. "My speed and vision allow me to bounce outside and break away. But I'm strong enough to get that one yard between the tackles."
Opponents got an overdose of Demond's speed-power combination last season. Boasting a 4.5 40-yard dash time and a 300-pound bench press, he eclipsed 100 yards in eight of Annapolis' 11 games.
Against Severna Park, he struggled early against a defense that game-planned to stop him. But no high school defense can keep Demond down for all 48 minutes.
"[Severna Park] was pounding on me the whole game," Demond said. "But then we ran a sweep and I broke two tackles, got to the sideline and burst through everyone for a touchdown."
That 79-yard run exemplified Demond's abilities. But his coach remembers an even better sequence three weeks later, in the playoff-clinching game against North County.
Demond sat out the early part of the game due to illness. But with the playoffs on the line, Brian Brown couldn't resist inserting his main offensive weapon. The coach gave him one carry early in the second quarter. Demond responded by running 56 yards for a touchdown.
After the Panthers defense forced a North County punt, the coach gave into temptation again. He sent in Demond and called the same play - sweep left. This time North County was ready; they overloaded the left side and had Brown stopped. But Demond faked to the outside and cut back inside, leaving the defense diving at his ankles. Then he dashed straight down the seam for back-to-back touchdowns.
"He did that while he was sick," Brian Brown said. "That was a memorable moment for sure."
The fifth-year coach is an Annapolis alum and has been following Panthers football since the '70s. In over three decades, he has seen a stable's worth of elite running backs trudge through Annapolis, including Maryland star Donald "Turkey" Brown and 2,000-yard rusher Rayvon Johnson.
"We have a strong tradition of running backs at Annapolis," Brian Brown said. "If I have a problem finding a running back here I have serious issues."
Demond Brown has a chance to etch his name alongside the greats, according to the coach. He has that special drive that only the best possess.
But after rushing for almost 1,400 yards last year, Demond is demanding more from himself. Every day he's in the weight room adding bulk; every day he's on the track working on speed. He has but one goal: 2,000 - Johnson's mark.
"I had a good year last year, but I'm not happy with it," Demond admitted. "My goal is to rush for 2,000 yards. I have high standards. If you set low goals you'll never accomplish anything big."
Demond expects his hard work will eventually lead to a scholarship - athletic or academic. While Demond has certainly excelled on the football field, he prides himself on his work in the classroom, where he boasts a GPA near 4.0. He wants to earn a scholarship to Stanford and major in pre-law or business management.
"I'm always working and trying to get better in everything I do," Demond said. "I think if I keep it up I can accomplish anything."