Getting Focused

Tallahassee Godby tailback <b>Roy Upchurch</b> was a relative unknown two years ago. Well, just about everyone in the country knows about Upchurch these days. The speedy Upchurch finished his senior season with a school-record 2,543 yards and a 8.3-yards per carry average. Although he played at Godby for just two seasons, he set the career rushing mark with 3,399 yards. As December quickly approaches, Upchurch is starting to focus on recruiting, with Alabama making a school visit today.

Roy Upchurch didn't have much time to think about the recruiting process during Tallahassee Godby High's football season.

Who could blame him?

Behind the record-setting Upchurch, the Class 3A Cougars (8-4) qualified for the state playoffs once again.

While their journey ended two weeks ago against Jacksonville Andrew Jackson 20-12 in the regional semifinals, Upchurch had plenty reason to smile.

Upchurch finished with a school-record 2,543 yards and 27 touchdowns on 305 carries for 8.3-yards-per-carry average. He scored 162 points and had a long run of 81 yards, one of nearly 10 carries of more than 50 yards.

Upchurch also returned seven kickoffs for 103 yards and had eight receptions for 31 yards, giving him 2,677 total yards.

Ironically, Upchurch had a 77-yard touchdown run nullified by a penalty in Godby's season-opening game against Pace and he had a 65-yard touchdown run nullified by a penalty in his last game against Andrew Jackson.

Upchurch, a 6-foot, 190-pounder with sprinter's speed, finished with a school-record 3,399 career yards in just two seasons after transferring to Godby from smaller FAMU High prior to his junior season.

"I couldn't be more proud of how he has developed," Godby coach Shelton Crews said.

"He was very raw when he came over to us last year. We worked with him and helped him, and everything we taught he accepted with a great attitude and worked very hard at getting better. He has been the first back that I can remember in all of my coaching who gets into the secondary so quickly."

Upchurch also burst onto the recruiting scene, drawing fast and furious attention and offers. Now that the season is finished Upchurch can concentrate on his collegiate future.

In fact, Alabama made a school visit today with Upchurch and North Carolina is scheduled for a school visit on Friday. Last summer the Tar Heels were the first school to offer Upchurch.

"It has gotten crazy," Upchurch said and laughed when asked to describe his recruitment. "When I received that first offer last summer from North Carolina, it helped me during the season in terms of giving me a goal."

Upchurch said on Tuesday that his top three are, in no particular order, Florida State, Alabama and North Carolina. Auburn and Syracuse round out his top five.

Upchurch had hoped to make his first official visit to Alabama Dec. 10-11 but said he may have to change the date due to academic testing. He will schedule an official visit to UNC with Tar Heel coaches on Friday.

Upchurch also plans to make official visits to Auburn, Syracuse and Louisville. Upchurch cited his familiarity with FSU as the reason for not scheduling an official visit.

"Coach (Jeff) Bowden is showing me a lot of love," Upchurch said. "FSU is there. They are in my top three and I know a lot of people over there. Ernie (Sims) and I have been friends back when I was at FAMU."

Upchurch, who was FAMU's sack leader as a sophomore, had plenty to learn about being a tailback. This season proves he's a quick learner.

"When Roy hits a crease, he's gone," Crews said.

"If you don't get a good lick on him, you are not going to tackle him. He's also gotten better where he learned to run behind his shoulder pads -- that's something he didn't do when he first came here.

"He had some fumbles, but it was more mechanical in terms getting the ball away from his body and not protecting it when running. And, honestly, quite a few of his fumbles were from extra effort, trying to get more yards."

Upchurch, who is expected to be fine academically, can only smile when reflecting on his season. Grounded and polite, he's also quick to credit coaches and teammates for helping in his success.

"It (season) was better than I expected," Upchurch said.

"It shocked me the numbers I put up and I know it shocked a lot of people. But the team got better and I got better along the way -- I am not going to say it's all me."


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