It's not always how you start, but how you finish.
Glenbard West senior running back Sam Brodner finished as well as any player in Illinois this season. He has been named the 2015 Illinois Player of the Year by EDGYTIM/Rivals.com.
Brodner wrapped up his senior season last Saturday on the stage at Northern Illinois University in fine fashion, hoisting the Class 7A state championship trophy. Brodner ended the 2015 season with 298 carries, 1,959 yards and 40 touchdowns over 14 games — terrific stats for the year. But it's what the numbers don't tell you that sets Brodner apart from a small but very worthy field of candidates.
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Everyone knew Sam Brodner was going to carry the football. Everyone. And that's not a slight to the Hilltoppers' other weapons on offense. But when it came down to crunch time, everyone knew who was getting the football.
Sam Brodner is simply a throwback type of player. All season long, he showed the ability to handle a heavy workload while also running with power. Brodner would, more often than not, cause contact and punishment as opposed to most runners who take punishment and try to avoid contact.
However, he was much more than a "bull in a China shop" style of runner. Brodner has speed, exceptional feet and balance. And he just never seems to go down after the first tackle. His overall mix of speed, quickness, power, balance and toughness was just unmatched in 2015.
Brodner, who was recruited as a running back and is verbally committed to Vanderbilt, could have also been one of the state's best inside linebackers this season. He'll be the first to admit that, at 5-foot-11, 215 pounds, he doesn't exactly look like your typical college running back. Brodner also heard from several college coaches and recruiting experts after his junior season, saying that his future could be on defense.
This past offseason, he went to work on re-learning a linebacker position that he hadn't played since his freshman year at Glenbard West. Brodner worked this past spring with Boom Midwest and was easily one of the most physical, most intense and best linebackers I saw all winter and spring. How physical was he in 7-on-7s? Just watching Brodner manhandle anything and anyone who dared to cut across his area made the 7-on-7 circuit fun to watch.
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That said, in the end, it's all about the running back position for Brodner. To me, he is the modern-day version of former Joliet Catholic/Purdue/NFL running back Mike Alstott, a comparison not taken lightly since I've lived in the Joliet area for many years. Like Alstott, everyone knew that Brodner was going to get the football.
When Glenbard West needed to kill the clock, needed a scoring drive in a tight game or just needed a first down this year, Brodner got the football.
He wasn't always flashy. Others had better stats or more scholarship offers. But in crunch time, he became the Sam Brodner we have come to know.