Morganton, N.C. is not a major metropolis. It has a total population of fewer than 20,000 and an hour from Asheville, not to mention more than an hour and a half from Charlotte. Suffice to say, it’s rural.
Yet one of those 20,000 Morganton residents happens to be among the nation’s top high school football players. B.J. Emmons is ranked as one of the nation’s top running back recruits, not to mention a top-100 recruit overall. He’s a stud, and he’s headed to Alabama to play for Nick Saban. He’s also keen to make sure that he can compete with the heavy talent on campus when he gets there, which is one of the main reasons why he was decided to become an Under Armour All-American.
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“I’m looking forward to some competition,” Emmons told USA TODAY High School Sports from the latest stop on the American Family Insurance Selection Tour. “I had the chance to go to the US Army All-America Game, but knowing what kind of competition is going to be in Florida that inspired me to go down there. In Morganton I don’t receive that kind of competition.
“I think it’s a blessing being able to be picked and being one of the nation’s top RBs. Going down there with all the top linemen, defenses and corners, everyone who is being recruited is there. They obviously have the talent. I feel I’m in the same position as them to go out and make plays and have fun.”
Emmons has modeled his game after two running backs whose honors he aspires to match: Rams running back Todd Gurley and current Alabama star Derrick Henry. While he is trains diligently and constantly to match their work ethic, he also knows that there are things left to accomplish at Freedom High, for whom he remains a transcendent star.
“I’m focused now on taking care of the team,” Emmons said. “I know we can’t get too satisfied with the win on Friday because we have more to come. We have two games and then playoffs. I have to continue what I’ve been doing since my sophomore year when I got to start running the ball.
“I’m kind of used to it by now, with the spotlight. I’m looking for who’s behind my back all the way. They were all hear today to see me get the jersey. … Today was really part of a rush. I’ve been anxious to receive the jersey.”