The only number on Grant Rushing’s mind Friday night was five.
“Going into the game [against Niles North], I was just looking for the win,” the Glenbrook North senior said.
That victory – which the Spartans got, 56-17 — made them playoff-eligible and gave them one more than last year when they finished 4-5.
But en route to that win, Rushing put up another bigger number: 411 rushing yards, smashing the school record.
“I had no idea how many yards I had,” said Rushing, who is the Sun-Times Athlete of the Week. “One of the [stat] guys told me where I was at, I really couldn’t believe it.”
In fact, it wasn’t the first big game of the year for the 6-1, 205-pounder. He ran 16 times for 295 yards and five touchdowns vs. Lane in Week 1 and had 11 carries for 244 yards and four scores in Week 4 against Deerfield.
Through six games, Rushing has 93 carries for 1,163 yards and 13 touchdowns for the 5-1 Spartans, who are tied with Highland Park for the Central Suburban North lead at 2-0.
It’s a nice change from last year when Rushing suffered a shoulder injury in Week 4 that kept him sidelined till the final game of the season.
“That’s the reason he’s not signed some place,” Glenbrook North coach Bob Pieper said, referring to the importance college recruiters place on junior season performance by high school prospects.
“It means the world to us and our team and our community to bounce back from a season like last year,”
Rushing said. “It’s the toughest thing in the world to be on the sideline and not [be able to] help your team. It hurts – this is the thing I love to do the most.”
Rushing and the rest of the Glenbrook North football community also have had to deal with the offseason deaths of two players, Billy Garrity and Kyle Caraher.
“It’s always going to be difficult,” Rushing said of coping with the loss of two teammates.
But the Spartans have tried to focus on the task at hand, which is to return to the IHSA playoffs after a one-year absence.
“It’s a huge confidence boost to be 5-1 and have the whole community support you,” Rushing said. “[Making the] playoffs is huge for us, but we go week to week. We try not to get too far ahead in the season.”
Indeed, Rushing has plenty on his mind every Friday night without looking ahead to the next one. Besides being the Spartans’ featured back, he’s the starting free safety, punter, punt returner and kickoff returner.
“He does everything for us,” Pieper said.
But Rushing knows he hasn’t gotten his big numbers entirely on his own.
“I have to thank my linemen,” he said, citing left tackle Paul Boldanis, left guard Brady Nagel, center Adam Wenk, right guard Casey Luc and right tackle Jeremy Kahen. “I want to give them as much credit as possible.”
Why not? There’s plenty to go around after a game like Friday’s.