LIBERTY, Ohio (WKBN) – Liberty was one win away from making the playoffs in 2016, but this season, they’ve got a great shot with one of the most exciting players in the Valley and a little help from the NFL.
The Leopards are ready for one more run with senior Dra Rushton.
“He is the barometer,” said Chet Allen, head coach of the Leopards. “As he goes, we’re going to go. If he’s having a good day, everybody else has a good day.”
Rushton will once again start on both sides of the ball. Last year he racked up over 1,500 yards rushing and passing, with 19 total touchdowns while recording 35 tackles and three interceptions on defense. And he will be busy again this season.
“He’s going to touch it as much as the center does,” Allen said.
Rushton and the rest of the Leopards also got a special delivery this season from the NFL.
Former Liberty standout and Pittsburgh Steelers running back Fitzgerald Toussaint sent four boxes of professional gear back to his alma mater at the end of last season. They were filled with spikes and gloves from the Steelers, some of which had never been used. It was well over $10,000 worth of equipment.
“Soon as we open these boxes, they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, what size are these?'” Allen said. “I think some of these guys would wear four or five pairs of socks just to wear these spikes.”
Rushton was one of those that appreciates the new gear.
“Oh my, I got a couple pairs of spikes, couple pairs of gloves — everything,” he said. “There was everything in there.”
“Totally humbled,” Allen said. “Totally humbled and honored that what we’re doing here, he had noticed and he gave back to us.”
Toussaint isn’t the only one to noitce the Leopards this season.
With 17 returning starters and a big senior class, Liberty is one of the early favorites in the AAC.
“It’s nice hearing that we might be a contender,” Allen said. “But we’re still chasing.”
“We just feel like it’s our time,” Rushton said. “We were always the younger team. Every team we played, we were the younger team, but now there’s no excuses. We’re all seniors. We gotta go out with a bang.”