Time-Tested Back

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Running back Jamel Applewhite is a busy man, but hardly ever short on time.

He drives to classes at Glendale College every weekday morning from his home in South Central Los Angeles, practices football in the afternoons and usually drives afterward to a Torrance department store, where he sells watches.

On Saturday, there are games and sometimes work. On Sunday, there’s work and studying. Somewhere in between, Applewhite squeezes in a little fun and relaxation.

“It can get tough sometimes,” Applewhite said.

But it doesn’t get much more original. After all, is there anything more appropriate than a guy who’s always on the run, who needs to keep good track of time, selling watches?


When it comes to football, though, Applewhite is making quite a pitch to Division I schools.

A 5-foot-11, 210-pound sophomore from Crenshaw High, Applewhite is a bruising tailback who dares defensive players to step in his path.

“You’re going to have to work hard to bring me down,” Applewhite said. “Whether you bring me down or I run you over, either way you’re going to be hit.”

Applewhite seems to be winning most of the ram-a-thons. He might occasionally take a licking, but he keeps on ticking.

Through five games, Applewhite has 464 yards rushing and seven touchdowns, and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. His play is keeping the freshman-laden Vaqueros (2-3) respectable as they head for a Western State Conference interdivisional game at East L.A. on Saturday.

“Applewhite is put together well,” said Ron Ponciano, Valley’s acting coach. “He’s a guy who can take punishment and dish it out. He’s just a well-rounded back . . . I’ve told a bunch of [four-year school] recruiters that have come through here about Applewhite.”


Applewhite played fullback and end at Crenshaw, and was more of a decoy at Glendale last year than a threat, barely showing up on the radar. He carried 106 times for 487 yards and four touchdowns in a pass-happy scheme that averaged a WSC-leading 347 yards passing per game.

The Vaqueros retooled their offense this season, employing a more balanced attack because record-setting quarterback Mike Frost took his aerial show to Temple. But without the potent passing game, opponents are keying on Applewhite.

“People are loading up on him,” Coach John Cicuto said. “He’s really stepped up quite a bit.”

It took a while last year for Applewhite to grow into his new role. As a high school fullback, he powered his way to yardage. As a college tailback, he needed to learn more finesse.

“It was a total change,” Applewhite said. “I had to get used to making the right reads.”

The statistics show the improvement. Applewhite’s top game last season was 104 yards and one touchdown in 10 carries in Glendale’s 38-33 season-opening victory at Desert. Six games later, he had 100 yards and two touchdowns in 15 carries in Glendale’s 42-35 loss to Santa Barbara City.

This season, Applewhite has three 100-yard games, including a career-best 114 yards and one touchdown in 14 carries in Glendale’s 42-20 loss to Ventura two weeks ago. He had only 73 yards rushing the week before, but scored three times to help the Vaqueros defeat Valley, 24-14.


Applewhite is hoping four-year schools are noticing his running. He wants to become an architect and work in the inner city, perhaps building shopping malls and other businesses that would help revitalize the local economy.

He knows about pumping money into an economy, in this case his family’s. His job helps his parents maintain a household that includes four other children, all younger than him. For Applewhite, it’s part of a remarkable juggling act.

“He’s a good football player and such a quality person,” Cicuto said.

And nearly always on time.