One is called “thunder,” the other is called “lightning,” and when Rufus Mason and Dagan Newsome are both on top of their game, they appear to create the perfect storm.
Mason and Newsome have made the Marcus football team’s backfield a force to be reckoned with, combining for more than 1,360 yards and 14 touchdowns through the first five games of the season, while leading the Marauders to a 4-1 record.
Coach Bryan Erwin said he has always believed in playing to his teams’ strengths and said, this season, the running game is firing on all cylinders.
“It’s a huge luxury,” Erwin said. “These are two of the best running backs that we have ever coached, and we are very fortunate.
While Erwin describes both players as excellent teammates, great competitors and very coachable, he said the similarities pretty much end there.
“They are completely different,” Erwin said. “Rufus we call ‘thunder,’ and Dagan we call ‘lightning.’ Rufus is a very powerful and physical back. He’s like a bull. Dagan’s got really great vision and quickness. He’s very balanced and elusive, and has great speed.
“Neither one of them are true sprinters, but both of them have very good football speed.”
The interesting thing for the Marcus football team is that Mason and Erwin are platooned, and what’s more is that neither seems to mind.
“We don’t call either of them the starter,” Erwin said. “One will start one game, the other will start the next. We rotate them by series. It seems that every game, one is a little hotter than the other. We’re going to go with the hotter guy on that particular night.
“In the first four games though, both of them have been hot twice, so maybe one of these nights, both of them will be really hot, and then look out.”
Mason, who had rushed for nearly 700 yards with eight touchdowns through the first four games, said it is great for him to play on the same team with the caliber of running back as Newsome.
“Playing on the same team with Dagan is exciting, because there is always that one-two punch,” Mason said. “It takes a lot of pressure off of both of us. Team’s don’t just have to stop me or him; they have to stop both of us, so it makes the job a little bit easier for us.”
Mason said he and Newsome do have a friendly rivalry, but added that they are both supportive of each other, as well.
“Me and Dagan definitely push each other,” Mason said. “But we also help each other on and off the field. That’s just the type of relationship we have. Dagan is just a cool person to be around, on and off the field, and we definitely push each other to strive to be better.”
Mason said that he and Newsome both understand and except the responsibility of being such a big part of the teams’ offense, and said they both put pressure on themselves as a duo to perform week in and week out.
Newsome, who had rushed for nearly 400 yards with three touchdowns through the first four games, said having Mason as a teammate has helped his game immensely.
“He really helps me a lot, because he is the one that sort of wears down the players, and I am the one that is trying to avoid them,” Newsome said. “He helps me a lot. Rufus and I have known each other for so long, and while there is competition, we both just really want to see the other one do the best that we can do.
“We don’t really try to start over each other, because we both know that we are going to get to play. We help each other out, and that makes us better as a team.”
Newsome, who describes himself as the more laid back of the two backs, and Mason as the team’s joker, said the thing that impresses him most about Mason is his determination to win.
“He just never gives up,” Newsome said. “He has some of the best endurance that I have ever seen. He’ll go hard every play, and never takes a play off. He’s a bruiser.”
Erwin said he is going to rely heavily on Mason and Newsome to continue to help the team win football games and said the thing he probably admires most about both student athletes, is their willingness to work together to make the Marcus football team the best it can be.
“There is a natural competition with them, because they are both so good,” Erwin said. “That competition breeds excellence, and so they compete against each other, they push each other and encourage each other, and it makes both of them so much better.
“They really do pull for each other, too. They are great teammates, and they want each other to do well. They know that they are going to split time, and that’s the way they want it. They are both unselfish…and they are just both great players that, first and foremost, want to win.”