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Oak Park-River Forest's Jakari Cammon (22) tries to elude Morton senior Jonathan Duarte. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
This being Chicago, Jakari Cammon grew up in a family of Bears fans who loved Walter Payton.
But the Oak Park-River Forest senior's role model is a different NFL great.
"Before every game, I watch [films of] Barry Sanders," said Cammon, who admires Sanders' jukes and cuts. "People always ask me why I do so much [changing direction, like Sanders]. I say, 'Why get hit when you don't have to?'"
Cammon isn't getting hit as much this season for a couple reasons. First, he isn't getting as many touches as he did a year ago when the Huskies had few other offensive options. Second, he's starting to run away from people as opposed to run around them.
In Friday's 49-22 West Suburban Silver win over Morton, Cammon made the most of nine carries, running for 292 yards and five touchdowns as the Huskies clinched their first IHSA playoff berth since 2009. For that effort, Cammon is the Sun-Times Athlete of the Week.
Cammon pretty much was the Huskies' offense in 2011, when he got up to 30 carries a game, ran for around 1,500 yards for a 3-6 club and was named the conference's Co-Offensive MVP.
"Everybody knew who we were going to go to," second-year Oak Park coach John Hoerster said. "Coming into this season, we wanted to help him out by surrounding him with more playmakers. We didn't want to be one-dimensional."
Cammon was glad to share the offensive burden.
"A lot of pressure is not on my back," he said. "The ball is getting spread out more."
Meanwhile, he's modified his running style at Hoerster's urging.
"Last year, I don't know if he trusted his speed," the coach said. "Last year, he would maybe make an extra cut he wouldn't need to make."
The proof was on video, which Cammon watched in the offseason. "I got caught a lot when I cut back," he said. "I should have just kept running."
That strategic change, plus the extra speed and strength he gained after an offseason on Hoerster's regimen in the weight room have made Cammon even more effective.
But college recruiters have paid less attention to Cammon's rushing numbers (86 carries, 1,115 yards, 16 touchdowns) than his size: 5-foot-8, 175 pounds. Illinois State and Eastern Illinois have shown interest, but Cammon may have to wait till after the season to sort out his future.
"It is frustrating," he said of the relative lack of recruiting interest. "But it's also motivation. I know I'm at a disadvantage."
"It's tough when you're a little bit under-sized," Hoerster said. "Whoever takes a chance on Jakari Cammon is going to get a good kid and a good football player."