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COLUMBUS North running back Jonathan Byers insists that his teammate, offensive lineman Ezra Followell, is not a mean guy off the football field.
“He’s hilarious,” Byers said.
North’s opponents probably don’t see the humor.
Bull Dogs coach Tim Bless values Followell’s “nasty” disposition that is held in high regard among offensive linemen.
“He has a motor that always is running,” Bless said. “And he is the unquestioned leader of our offensive line.”
In this case, “nasty” is a complimentary term, and it generally refers to a player who goes 100 percent from snap to whistle. Followell keeps looking for a body to hit until the officials signal that the play is over.
“You’ve got to be nasty,” said Followell, a junior who started this season as a guard and then was moved to center by Bless. “It means going all out and giving your best.
“In the classroom, I’m pretty soft-spoken. On the football field, you’ve got to find it (a nasty disposition). Not everyone has it, and they haven’t learned to play with everything they’ve got. But this is my life.”
Followell’s best means that Columbus North can run the ball. He spearheaded an effort by the Bull Dogs offensive that led to 488 yards rushing in a 49-42 victory Friday against visiting Perry Meridian.
North only threw the ball five times, completing four for 66 yards, and tailback Josh Holt rushed for 298 yards and five touchdowns. Holt’s game was the second-most rushing yards in North history after the 342-yard ground effort by Kobi Cook in 2010 against Columbus East.
Afterward, Holt knew who to praise for the holes in the line.
“Josh Holt has been our running back since PAAL,” Followell said. “He’s always told us every play, ‘It’s all you guys.’”
What made the rushing effort even more impressive was that Perry Meridian knew North didn’t have much of a passing attack and therefore stuffed the line of scrimmage with defenders.
The Falcons kept bringing more defenders to the line to no avail.
“You just have to figure it out,” Hollowell said of the challenge of blocking a team that crowds the line. “We just kept doing what we were doing.
“You’ve got to hold your own.”
With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, North added three more rushing touchdowns.
Perry Meridian just couldn’t stop the Bull Dogs.
“That’s the greatest feeling ever,” Hollowell said. “You know you accomplished something.”
At 3-4 overall and 3-2 in Conference Indiana, the Bull Dogs have won three of their past four games and appear to be making a positive move as they head toward the tournament.
Helping that momentum has been Followell’s move to center.
“Center is where I feel most comfortable,” said Followell, who is 6-foot-2, 240 pounds. “And I’ve always liked playing offensive line. At most positions, you kind of are out there by yourself. On the offensive line, there are five guys across. There is always someone else to help you.”
While Followell is a big guy in general terms, he is the smallest player on North’s offensive line.
“Since fourth grade, I always was the biggest guy,” he said. “Now I’m the smallest. I hope to grow another inch and get stronger (for next season).”
Whatever the size, Followell and his offensive line mates have been getting the job done.
“We’ve come a long ways,” he said.
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