Mean in Green?

<p>It was the kind of question you could only ask a guy generally considered to be one of the top scholar-athletes to ever play college football in Colorado. So it was put to Marcus Houston. Are you mean enough to be a superstar running back?

"What do you think?" Houston said, smiling with a 'go ahead, knock this battery off my shoulder' kind of look in his eye. "You've got to be a competitor, you've got to be intense. I think if you look at the games I've played in, definately the intensity is there. I see it. The coaches see it."

"Every running back has there own personality," says Colorado State head coach Sonny Lubick, who will coach Houston this season as his senior year begins. "They have there own style. He might not be that guy that's just going to take it up in there like Jimmy Green, who's more of a ram it up in there guy, but he's got a style he's not only shown, but has proven that he can put up a 100-yard game if you get him some blocking and give him a little wiggle room."

What Houston has proven is that he's an incredibly balanced young man, who has excelled off the field as much if not more than he has on it. He's an honor student, has helped promote literacy for young children, and is one of those rare young people with multiple career paths ahead of him that all lead to the top. Houston is just as likely to follow in the footsteps of (Illinois congressman) Barack Obama or (former Oklahoma congressman and Sooner QB) J.C. Watts as he is Eric Dickerson.

Anyone who has seen Houston carry a football -especially in during his stellar high school career - has seen flashes of brilliance that have been undermined by extreme expectations and injuries. Considered the top school boy running back prospect in America as Letter-of-Intent day arrived, Houston signed on with the University of Colorado and was immediately annoited the starter/savior of the Buffalo offense. Four games into his freshman season, Houston suffered the first of a series of injuries that derailed his express train to stardom.

After playing parts of three seasons at CU, Houston transfered to rival Colorado State amid turmoil in Boulder, centered on the series of injuries and talk about disagreements with the coaching staff. The moment he arrived in Fort Collins, it happened again - the expectation that he would step right in and be nothing sort of brilliant from the first snap.

"All eyes were on him," noted Lubick, "I tried to low-key that last year. There's no way he could live up to all those expectations. Coming in this year, all the coaches have a lot of confidence in him. Just watching him and sensing him here, he's a lot more confident this year in himself."

Houston did start five games at tailback a season ago for the Rams, rushing for 636 yards and nine touchdowns. But fans remember his key fumbles against Utah and Wyoming that played huge roles in Ram losses, and that fact that the unheralded Green jumped ahead of Houston late in the season (and enters 2004 at the top of the depth chart).

So, as his senior year dawns, Marcus Houston might feel the need to get a little mean. There is no doubt that the 'can't miss kid' finally has something to prove. Ironically, the expectations will not be as overwhelming as they have been in the past, which may work in his favor, Don't expect him to go Billy Simms and knock down a would be tackler with a kick to the chest, but that does not mean he won't be running with a passion. This being his senior year, it could concieveably be his final season of football if things don't get better quickly.

Once touted publicly by former CU coach Bill McCartney as "the only guy with NFL talent" among a group of CU backs that included Chris Brown and Bobby Purify, Houston will need a big senior season if he's going to play football at the next level. He will graduate with his degree in Political Science in December, with the plan being to set aside trips to political conventions for now, in favor of the NFL Scouting Combine in the spring.

"Definitely that (the pre-draft work outs) will be my next step, and that's always been a goal of mine. You know, I'd like to play as long as I can."

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