HAMMOND | It wasn't a once in awhile kind of thing. It was every day. All summer. No matter how hot and humid it was, Clark's Maurice Dawkins was working hard to make his Pioneers better.
A 1-9 season last fall was part of the motivation. A good character base was the other.
"I love football," Dawkins said. "We all wanted to turn this around."
Dawkins led a group of players who met at the beach at 6 a.m. and ran. He worked out from 8 a.m. to noon, went to his job as a lifeguard until 4, then, from 4 to 8, he had football at the school.
"Every day," Dawkins said.
The excitement for the season was building. Playing rival Whiting in the season opener added to all of that. So the junior running back took his first handoff and took off.
He was hit. His arm went down to the ground. And in a Joe Theismann-like injury, he dislocated his left elbow at a horrific angle.
"I tried to pop it back in at first," Dawkins said. "After a few minutes it really started to hurt. It was a 10 (on the 10-point pain scale."
"We were told he was out for the season," Clark coach Jay Novak said.
But that wasn't Dawson's nature. Nor that of his team. Since the injury was in his arm, he started running by himself at practice. He did agility and footwork. And logged a couple miles while his arm was healing.
Last Friday, Dawkins returned to the field against Roosevelt. The long wait, the frustration, drifted away as he rushed 10 times for 143 yards and two touchdowns. His scoring runs were from 44 and 24 yards. He also caught a 5-yard scoring pass from Justin Martinez in the 47-12 win.
Clark (2-6) will drive down Calumet Ave. tonight to play Hammond (2-6) The winner will finish second in the Great Lakes Athletic Conference.
"He was a leader on our team, he was the first guy there to everything," Novak said.
Last season, as a sophomore, Dawkins rushed for 380 yards and four TDs. He had 220 receiving yards and three scores. He was not the No. 1 guy a year ago.
Dawkins praised Kensha Funches who ran the ball on Friday nights during the injury time off. He praised his offensive line for blocking for him last Friday.
"I can't do anything without my teammates blocking," Dawkins said. "I want to thank my teammates for having faith in me."
The Pioneers lost to the Wildcats 40-7 last season. Clark, though, has learned a lot from Dawkins.
"I just kept fighting," said Dawkins, an honor roll student. "I never quit. I always want to make something better for myself."