The game is football, but to Macomb Dakota senior tailback Kaiser Carleton it is something else altogether.
It is more of a game of hide-and-go-seek.
Carleton is a bit on the short side, even though he is proud to announce he underwent something of a growth spurt.
“I grew a little bit from last year,” he said. “I got measured at 5-feet-8 the doctor said.”
Even at all of 5-8, Carleton can be difficult to find if you are a defensive lineman.
“I don’t so much hide behind my linemen, but I use it to my advantage because I’m a smaller guy,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of big linemen this year so that should help.”
Carleton has learned to use his linemen to run interference for him as looks for a crack in the defense.
“It all depends on the linemen up front,” he said. “I just try to look around the field and use my speed to my advantage and be smart about it. I’m just looking for daylight. I just try to explode out of the hole when they can’t really see me.”
To be honest, a lot of people couldn’t see Carleton being much of a football player because of his short stature.
“Oh, yeah, college coaches, high school coaches, players, parents, everybody talked about my size,” he said. “It’s tiring at times. I don’t really get sick of it, I try to use it as motivation for myself to keep that chip on my shoulder.”
Long ago Carleton learned size doesn’t mean much, not even in basketball — and Carleton doesn’t have to look far for a perfect example.
“We’ve got a great basketball player at our school, Jermaine Jackson Jr.,” Carleton said. “He’s about the same size as me and that’s even worse for basketball. He does the same thing. He uses that as a chip on his shoulder.”
Late in his freshman year, Carleton was summoned to the varsity, and former coach Mike Giannone made him the starting tailback as a sophomore.
That season Carleton ran for over 1,200 yards. Shortly after the season, Ohio U. offered him a scholarship and all of a sudden he came to the realization that college was not going to cost his parents a dime.
He now holds additional offers from Eastern Michigan, Kentucky Christian and Western Michigan — although those schools are looking at him as a slot receiver, which is fine with Carlton because he loves catching passes.
Last season, Carleton gained over 1,400 yards before tearing his meniscus in the first round of the state playoffs.
Working with former assistant and new head coach Greg Baur, Carleton has regained his 4.4 speed in the 40.
“Coach Baur really helped me out through the whole training process,” Carleton said. “He got me back to where I was before, if not better.”
He better be better, because Thursday at 7 p.m. the Cougars host two-time defending Division 3 state champ Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, featuring Dream Team linebacker Josh Ross.
“He’s a tremendous athlete,” Carleton said of Ross. “I wouldn’t take anything away from that kid. He’s a well put together kid. He comes from a great family and he’s committed to Michigan. That about sums it up right there, what kind of player he is.
“Orchard Lake St. Mary’s is a great team. We’re very excited to play them. Who doesn’t want to play the best of the best?”
Especially if you can make it a game of hide-and-go-seek.
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1
Meet the Cougars
Last season: 9-3
Top players: TB Kaiser Carleton; QB Brett Droski; WR Jalen Hall; DTs Coty Bastain and Brendan Siwajek; LB Nick Carl; DB Colin Macklen; DB Chris Magge.
State playoff record: 33-14.
Coach: Greg Baur, 25th year, first year as head coach.
Overview: After 11 seasons as Dakota’s defensive coordinator, Baur takes over a loaded team which returns 15 starters, eight offensively and seven defensively. The offense will revolve around Carleton, who ran for over 1,400 yards in 10 games. Droski has a reliable arm to make the running game more effective. Bastian and Siwajek will make running on Dakota difficult.