LAKEWOOD RANCH — Christos Eraclides has been playing defensive back ever since he first stepped onto the field seven years ago to play Pop Warner football for the Sarasota Sun Devils.
But that all changed toward the end of last season when The Out-of-Door Academy junior was approached by his coaches about the possibility of switching to running back. With the departure of AJ Strong, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards last season, the Thunder coaching staff began looking for his replacement. Eraclides seemed to fit the bill.
Eraclides ran a few plays at his new position in practice at the end of last season, but it wasn’t until ODA began its spring and summer workouts that Eraclides took over as ODA’s top running back.
Now in his fourth year with the Thunder, Eraclides is hoping to make a smooth transition from defense to offense.
“We’ve always had a strong backfield,” Eraclides said. “AJ was a great running back, so it’s going to be hard to fill in for him. The coaches expect a lot out of me.
“I did feel a little bit of pressure,” he added. “But AJ pretty much said somebody needs to fill in and make a good run at running back. I just want to keep up the (hard) work, make the coaches proud and do whatever I have to do to bring the team to another district championship.”
During the offseason, Eraclides spent ample time in the weight room with his teammates while also focusing on agilities and ball-handling drills in an effort to prepare for his new position.
“The biggest transition has been knowing all of the defensive plays to having to learn all of the offensive plays,” Eraclides said. “The training is a little different too with all of the drills that we do.
“It’s just different,” he added. “I’ve been playing defensive back for seven years, so I like being able to switch over to the offense. It’s a change, and I’ve always wanted to try out running back.”
Eraclides began playing football when he was 10 years old. He grew up playing flag football, and by the time he was in the fourth grade, he was ready to give the sport a try. He spent three years playing for the Sarasota Sun Devils before joining the Thunder four years ago.
Now in his junior season, Eraclides is looking to transition into his new position while leading ODA to another district title.
“I just want to take us to another district championship,” said Eraclides, who will get help in the backfield from backup running backs Jimmy Donellan and Tyler Burgett. “AJ had a lot of experience, so that was probably easier for him to say because he always played the position.”
Contact Jen Blanco at email@example.com.
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