Born to run
Brewer senior has eye on state title
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
It's the one skill that improves athletic performance in any sport. It's the one skill coaches say can't be taught. It's the one skill you're either born with or you're not. It's one skill Brewer High School senior Markus Greenleaf was born with-blazing speed.
"I'm God blessed, that's all I can say," Greenleaf said. "You have to work at it to develop it, but you have to start with God-given speed to begin with if you're going to be fast."
It didn't always seem Greenleaf possessed great speed. During his freshman year on the Patriot football team, he was timed in the 40-yard dash at only 4.7 seconds, not fast for the running back position he played.
The Brewer coaches encouraged Markus to run track to develop his speed.
There wasn't much improvement after the first season of running the 100 and 200-meter sprints. However, between his freshman and sophomore seasons, it was as if someone threw a switch and Greenleaf was suddenly a burner on the track and the football field.
"I went from being really mediocre and finishing seventh of eighth in small track meets to being state level," Greenleaf said. "I won the sectionals as a sophomore and took the bronze medal in the 100 at state and I've been improving ever since."
The improvement has been nothing short of dramatic. His 40-time is now consistently at 4.45 and he won ran an electronically timed 4.42. The personal records he has set since then are 10.8 in the 100 meters and 22.21 in the 200. Both are school records and good enough to make Greenleaf a highly sought- after track prospect.
He's narrowed his university choices to four schools, but his first love may be a deciding factor in his college choice.
"Football has always been my passion," Greenleaf said. "It's why I started running track to get faster for football. I really want to run track and play football in college."
Greenleaf, who has played at running back and receiver for the Pats, has gained 20 pounds of muscle since his sophomore season and his dash times continue to drop. Now at 180 pounds, he feels he has to get bigger still to play on the college gridiron.
"The colleges usually want a guy who weighs about 200 pounds and runs with my speed," Greenleaf added.
Since his first bronze medal, Greenleaf has won three silver medals at the state championships. In the 2004 State Indoor Championships, he took second in the 55-meter dash.
Then last May at the outdoor championships, he took second in the 100-meter dash. His third silver came at the 2005 indoor meet when he ran his PR of 6.55, but was edged out by Homewood's LaDarius Woods.
"I had seen LaDarius run and knew he had never run below 6.6 in the 55," Greenleaf said. "So my goal was to get 6.6 or below. I did that, but he ran a PR of his own and topped me."
Greenleaf will likely have to beat Woods at the outdoor meet this May if he will take his first state gold medal. Greenleaf will likely compete with Woods in both the 100 and 200-meter races.
"I want a state title before I graduate. I want it badly," Greenleaf said. "There's some pressure on me because it's my last chance to get one, but I put the pressure on myself."
Greenleaf, who hopes to be a math teacher one day, thinks he learned his stick-to-it attitude on the football field the last four years.
"A lot of people have given up on Brewer football," Greenleaf said.
"We've had from two to 10 guys quit the team each year I've been here. Some people told me I might as well quit because you can't get to college playing at Brewer.
"I always wanted to prove those people wrong. And I think we did last year. We were coming off a pretty good beating by Hartselle (42-0) and it would have been easy for us to go through the motions in practice for Curry, but we didn't.
"We prepared the right way and it paid off. We finally won. Then we won our next game also. All those people who quit missed out on learning how to stick with it."
Whether Greenleaf wins a gold medal at state or not, he's determined to succeed.
"I want to do my best at state," Greenleaf said. "I don't want to be satisfied, even if I win the gold.
"I won't quit trying to improve and I plan on getting much better each year of college."