Justin Covington has never used being younger as an excuse. Instead it continues to be a motivating factor in his football career, which appears headed towards a Division-I future.
The running back is a 16-year-old senior at Cardinal Hayes and has been any of his team’s youngest member since he began playing back in seventh grade. It instilled in him that he will likely not be the best player wherever he goes, only pushed him to be better.
“I was always the little guy and I always had to work harder to consider myself one of the top guys on the team,” Covington said.
Covington was again called on to do more than expected last year in his first varsity season. Cardinals star running back Timothy Poindexter injured his shoulder in the preseason, pushing much of the workload Covington’s way against the best teams the CHSFL AAA division has to offer. He embraced the challenge and excelled in his role.Covington ran for 692 yards and six touchdowns on 121 carries as a 15-year-old.
“It was a little overwhelming at first because it was a lot at once,” Covington said. “Once I got use to it was ok.”
Cardinal’s coach C.J. O’Neil was impressed with how well Covington fared. He is 5-foot-11 and 199 pounds and plays with a mindset beyond his years. It wasn’t easy to put up the numbers he did. Covington didn’t wear down, playing his best two game late in the year.
“As much as a physical specimen as he is that is still a lot to be carrying the AAA division,” O’Neil said. “He played JV his sophomore year and they dominated, but he wasn’t getting hit like you are when you play St. Anthony’s.”
Covington’s play got the attention of colleges in the process. He picked up on offer from Yale last weekend and also has offers from UPenn and Princeton. He also has offers from Fordham, Bryant, Lafayette, Navy. Villanova, Rutgers and Boston College are all interested.
“He got better and he is a smart kid,” O’Neil said. “He is going to have a heck of a year.”
Covington, a 90’s average honors student, said his recruitment is still wide open and plans on seeing where everything is at the end of his senior season.
“Then I will figure out if I want Ivy or a different division,” he said.
Covington’s focus for this season is on being a better captain and leader. On the field he’d like to move his ability to make quick cuts. He understand how hard it will be in the AAA after getting a taste last season. He continues not to take anything else for granted.
“You have to always work harder,” Covington said. Because there is always people better working harder than you did.”