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East County Wednesday, Sep. 9, 2009 8 years ago

Athlete of the Week: AJ Strong

by: Jen Blanco Sports Editor

AJ Strong always has possessed the speed and quickness required to be a potent running back.

But there was a time when The Out-of-Door Academy senior depended more on his physical toughness rather than his speed to carry him through games.

“I knew I was quick, but I was scared to trust my speed,” Strong said. “I’ve learned to trust in my speed more to help me get to where I need to go, so I can (get past) the faster guys on the defensive side of the ball.”

After racking up more than 1,100 yards on the ground last season, Strong is hoping to gain some respect not only for himself but also for his team. Strong advanced one step further in his mission Sept. 4, rushing for more than 100 yards and three touchdowns while leading ODA to a 37-7 victory over The First Academy to open the season.

“Myself personally, I did pretty well,” Strong said. “I knew coming out that I had to help set the tone for the season and let everyone know that we’re not going to be a pushover this season.”

Strong began playing football for the Manatee Mustangs when he was 7 years old at the urging of his father, Alcox. He started out playing wide receiver before switching over to running back when he was 12 years old.

He joined the ODA football team in its inaugural season and since then has become one of the Thunder’s most dominant players. With his final season at ODA now upon him, Strong, who also plays baseball for ODA, is eager to finish his high school career on a winning note while proving to the rest of the county that he is capable of playing at the next level.

“I want to let people know that I can play at the Division I or any college level,” Strong said. “People take our class for granted because we’re smaller, but I want people to know that I can play at that next level.”

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