Bryson Oliver’s work ethic already paying off

SHARE Bryson Oliver’s work ethic already paying off

Bryson Oliver didn’t need to go far for advice on how to get in shape for his senior football season.

The Metea Valley running back’s mom had him sprinting up a local hill in full pads a half-dozen reps at a time.

“She kept me on it,” Oliver said. “’Run up the hill.’”

He did a lot of running on Friday night as well, carrying the ball 34 times for 256 yards and three touchdowns as the Mustangs rolled past visiting Plainfield North 45-28 in their season opener. Oliver also caught an 11-yard pass for another score.

It was a muggy evening, but that hill work seems to have done the trick.

“I felt fine,” Oliver said. “I could have played more.”

Oliver’s play will be a key for the Mustangs as they chase the first playoff berth in program history. Metea was 4-2 in the Upstate Eight Valley last season and 4-5 overall, falling a win shy of reaching the postseason in its fourth year of varsity competition.

“That’s big motivation,” Oliver said. “I think the whole team’s looking forward to that, having our photo on the wall [as a playoff qualifier].”

If the Mustangs move on, it will likely be because a veteran offensive line helped pave the way for their featured back. Oliver, at 5-7, 165 pounds, could get lost behind the likes of left tackle Brett Boddy (6-3, 290), right tackle Mark Konkle (6-5, 240), center Matt Fitzgerald (6-1, 230) and right guard Kyle Grask (6-0, 230).

“He trusts our line,” Metea coach Ben Kleinhans said. “They do a good job of moving [linebackers].”

And Oliver does a good job of avoiding defenders when his linemen open the holes.

“He’s one of those kids, he’s hard to tackle in a phone booth,” Kleinhans said. “He’s so shifty. He doesn’t have that breakaway speed, but … he’s explosive.”

Oliver was the Mustangs’ featured back at the lower levels. Last year, he played in the slot and finished with 608 yards and six touchdowns on 70 touches (39 rushes, 31 receptions).

Kleinhans saw him in a bigger role this season.

“We’re always worried about his durability and being able to carry the load because of his size,” the coach said. “[But] we wanted to see if he could be the guy who was the featured back.”

The early reviews have been raves.

“From our camp to 7-on-7s, he’s been one of the best players on the field,” Kleinhans said.

And maybe one of the most tired, not that he ever shows it. Oliver also plays hoops and one day during the summer he had six basketball games before heading to a 7-on-7.

But he just keeps going and going. Kleinhans and an assistant were marveling at Oliver’s work ethic on another hot, humid day recently.

“Old No. 3 doesn’t take a play off,” Kleinhans remembers saying. “Every rep he’s going at it full speed.”

Part of the fuel is his desire to prove his slight stature is no disadvantage.

“I love it,” Oliver said. “Most people look at my size and say, ‘He’s not strong or … fast.”

But thanks to his mom’s words of wisdom on how to get ready for this season, Oliver is plenty strong and plenty fast. The proof is in the numbers already.

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