EVANSTON — Debuting new all-orange uniforms in its 42-21 win over Maine West, the Evanston football team looked sharp both from a gameplay and aesthetic standpoint.
One player’s jersey was indistinguishable, though.
Appearing as a bright orange blur streaking up the sidelines Friday, senior Maalik Todd and his No. 28 were discernible from the stands only during his two celebrations in the end zone.
Finishing with 88 rushing yards and a touchdown on six carries — as well as a 46-yard punt return for a touchdown — Todd displayed his blistering speed against Maine West. He made breaking tackles and juking defenders look easy.
“Maalik’s an explosive player,” Evanston coach Mike Burzawa said. “He definitely has that game-break ability, so we want to get the ball in our playmaker’s hands.”
The Wildkits did just that on their second play of the game, allowing Todd to strike first with a 57-yard scoring run up the right sideline.
“Getting the early touchdown, setting the tone early for the team … we talk about punching the other team first in the mouth,” Todd said.
Burzawa and fellow senior, quarterback Chris Little, praised Todd for how he conducts himself as a player and as a person.
“At the end of the day, the greatest compliment you can give anybody is, ‘He’s a football player,’” Burzawa said. “He’s a humble young man and he’s a great role model for the young kids in our program. I couldn’t be happier with Maalik and, above all, his abilities. He’s a great person.”
“It’s huge to have a playmaker like that,” Little said. “He’s really motivating for our team and he’s the leader we look for. … He’s the greatest guy and I’m really glad to have him on this team.”
Todd has helped Evanston get off to a 3-1 start. The Wildkits open CSL South play Saturday with a showdown against 4-0 Niles West in Skokie.
“It’s just a matter of getting better every week.” Todd said. “We have a lot of potential this season, so obviously we just have to correct the little things in practice and translate it on the field.”
Todd, who started at cornerback as a junior, evolved into a running back by Week 5 last season, carrying the load on both sides of the ball.
“Good things come in small packages,” Burzawa said of Todd, who stands 5-foot-8. “He has the heart of a lion, plays with everything he has. He obviously has some God-given ability in there, but his heart, determination, work ethic — that’s what makes him special.”
But blink and you just might miss him.