Saulsberry will miss Dodson

With a monster performance in the state championship game, Whitehaven Running Back Mark Dodson, headed to Ole Miss, left an indelible mark on his high school coach, Rodney Saulsberry.

Whitehaven Coach Rodney Saulsberry, the proud owner of the Tennessee State Championship trophy for 2012, knew he had someone special in Running Back Mark Dodson, who is coming to Ole Miss in January, back in Dodson's freshman season.

"Mark impressed me from the first time I saw him," said Saulsberry. "The freshman class he was in won the Freshman State Championship, the first year they had that, and it was easy to see they could be a cut above in time."

And while Saulsberry can talk endlessly about Dodson't ability on the field, he'd rather talk about Mark Dodson the person first and foremost.

"It's hard to put into words how good a kid he is," said Saulsberry of the Gatorade Player of the Year in Tennessee. "To be frank, I am more impressed with Mark as a person than I am as a football player, and he's a fantastic football player.

"Mark is the reason we (coaches) do what we do. I wish I could duplicate him every year. He is the epitome of what coaches want."

It starts with a solid work ethic and ends with leadership and humility, according to Saulsberry.

"Mark is always the first guy on the field and the last guy off. He gives everything he has to give to the team and to whatever he is doing. You can count on him," noted Saulsberry of the 5-10, 193-pounder with 4.4 speed. "He is the consummate team player, one of the most humble players you will ever meet.

"You might think someone who has accomplished all he has would be selfish or conceited, but he's anything but that. People ask me all the time how do you win? The answer is simple - when your best players are also your best leaders, best team players and are humble about it. That's mark Dodson."

Saulsberry was careful not to overexpose Mark too quickly in his prep career.

"He could have played as ninth grader, but we wanted his body to mature some and bring him along slowly," he explained. "Mark gained 1,500 yards as sophomore, 2,100 as a junior and 3,300 this year.

"He just kept getting better and better and better."

Dodson ended his career with 316 yards rushing in the title game that Whitehaven won in overtime to leave a legacy of perfection as the team ended the season 16-0.

Now, Dodson and Saulsberry must part ways, but his high school coach will keep a close eye on his star pupil.

"I think the sky is the limit for him on the college level. Mark is an every down back who can do it all. He can run the ball, block, catch, run inside, run outside. He learned to run behind his pads and became hard to tackle. He's just got it all," Saulsberry stated.

Saulsberry does not believe the transition to college football will be overwhelming for Dodson.

"Because of the kind of kid he is and because of his work ethic and humility, Mark will do well on the next level," said Saulsberry. "All he needs to do is continue to learn the intricacies of the game and the details of the game that we cannot teach on the high school level due to time limitations and manpower.

"With his work ethic, he will learn and he will get bigger, stronger and faster in a full-time strength program. For him, more time to devote to football will equal more and more results."

For Saulsberry, life with Dodson won't be easy, but life moves on and so will Whitehaven football.

"Mark and his senior class blazed a path for the younger guys. All they have to do is follow their blueprint and they will have success too," Saulsberry closed. "The road map is there. The younger kids just has to follow the example he set and follow his lead."


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