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Millwood product Marcus Major not about to rest on his laurels
It you had to use one word to describe Marcus Major, that four-letter term is the perfect fit.
Whether it is used as a verb, noun or an adjective -- each in various ways defines exactly what the Oklahoma City Millwood High star is all about.
As Major heads into his senior year, he is quick to point out that hard work is still the core of everything he believes in.
"Work, that's been very important," said Major. "My Dad tells me (that) all the time, almost every day. He still talks about it -- hard work. 'You still got some more work today. You're not done yet.'
"Yeah, it's very important to me -- hard work and work ethic."
Major's 2017 season was a testament to that theory. As a junior, he made the leap from being a running back with potential to one of the best players in Oklahoma.
He finished the season, his first as a tailback, with close to 1,200 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns. In the process, Major helped lead the Falcons to a state title.
With attention and accolades rolling in from almost every direction, his focus has remained on his work.
"He hasn't changed," said Millwood coach Darwin Franklin. "The limelight or the focus or notoriety hasn't changed him. He is still that same guy. In many ways, some of his teams said that now he comes in and works even harder than he did before. That’s a good trait to have for young guys."
Major was not always a running back. In the middle of his sophomore season, he was moved from receiver to the backfield. And even when he settled in at tailback, it wasn’t like Major was focused on putting up any big numbers or setting any huge personal goals.
"Really, more character and helping people out, and really leadership," said Major, describing his goals last fall. "Coach talks to me about that all the time -- how to really set an example for other people — teach them everything you know. I think I accomplished that a little bit more, but I still got some more to go. I got a long way to go, so I'm excited for it."
Having Franklin constantly telling him they want more from him, is not a problem for Major. It's something he looks upon with pride.
"It feels great. He talks to me about it almost every day," said Major. “I keep on practicing and keep learning from him and other people, so he helped me out all the time. I'm still going with it. I'm going to still keep going."
But there was a point, when even the words of Franklin and the other coaches weren't exactly working. They kept telling Major just how good of a player he could become, but it didn’t seem to be sinking in.
"It was one of those things where everybody else is telling you one thing -- that you can do this, that this is you, you got it in you -- but you have to see it for yourself,” said Franklin. "Sometimes you don't see what other people are seeing. For us to be telling him that is one thing.
"But once we saw him recognize that the hard work that he had put in during the summertime paid off and he could do the things we’d been asking him to do."
For Major, that moment came last Sept. 15. It was during a 52-15 win over Cascia Hall. That's when Major figured out what Franklin had been trying to tell him.
"As far as playing at the next level, we always knew he would be able to do that. That was never an issue of whether he would be able to do that," said Franklin. "When it clicked into his mind that he can do it right now was Week Three last year. He made a couple of plays that were what we had been looking for. We knew he would be the guy who would be able to do that. But we were just wondering when he would realize it.
"It was during that game I thought, 'It just clicked. Here we go.'"
Major said that everything that happened in that game was born from the work he put in leading up to it.
"It's just about keep working. That's all he told me, keep working," said Major. "It's really all about practicing because what you do in practice, you're going to do in the game. It's really all about going hard and practice hard working. I've been taking that. I took it and ran with it. Everything he said."
The Falcons finished the 2017 season undefeated at 14-0 and with the Class 2A State Championship in tow. A big part of the title run could be traced to Millwood's dominating rushing attack.
According to Major, there wasn't any big secret to his success. Again, it's all about the work.
"Really, it's going 100 percent every day," said Major. "Never to back off on anything you do. Always keep on working and working, and that’s what I've been doing."
Major has been pursuing his football dreams since he was 8 years old when he initially fell in love with the game. He's always enjoyed the contact and the rough-and-tumble nature of the game.
"Everything about it is fun. It's physical. I'm a very physical kid," he said. "My Dad noticed that I was really into basketball when I was little, so I'd foul everybody. I was a little rough. Then, I found out about football and it was fun to me, and I love to give the game everything -- every aspect of it, and I want to learn it."
While he believes that mental strength and toughness came from his father, Marcus Major Sr., it was another running back who became the ultimate football example that Major lives by. Former OU legend Adrian Peterson has become someone Major has tried to pattern his game after.
The fact he stands 6-foot and 195 pounds is a good start.
But it's also Major's running style that serves as a reminder of AD, according to former Oklahoma fullback J.D. Runnels, who played with Peterson.
In a post on Twitter, Runnels stated, "I don't take what I'm about to say lightly. Would not say it if I didn't mean it. Marcus Major is the closest high school (running back) I've seen to Adrian Peterson."
Others seem to agree with Major's talent level. Rivals.com has him ranked as the No. 4 player in Oklahoma and the 29th best running back prospect in the country.
Despite the high praise he has received, Major refuses to let it go to his head.
"Marcus' personality off the field is very humble, low key, one of the guys," said Franklin. "Not flashy, not look at me. Very modest, very quiet demeanor. He's not a rah-rah guy. He can be when he needs to, but he wants to do things the right way. He wants to take care of his business and go on about his business."
Major has racked up close to 20 offers from top-rated programs around the country, including Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Florida State, Nebraska, Texas and USC.
However, his recruiting process was quick and simple. Major took only two visits. He went to Arkansas in February and Oklahoma back in April. He eventually committed to the Sooners in late June.
"He handled it in stride. He was more in awe," said Franklin. "But none of that stuff ever went to his head. He didn't lose focus on what the main goal was and what he was trying to accomplish. Which was trying to get in school and take care of his grades. I had him in class. I got to see him in athletics every day then turn around and see him in Algebra II class. His level of focus was always there.
"He knew what was at stake. He knew what he was trying to achieve. We had talked about core GPA, SATs, ACTs. He was well locked in He and his family took it in stride."
Still, the thought of running out onto Owen Field with 85,000 Oklahoma fans screaming and cheering puts a smile on his face.
"When I see it, that means it's a special moment for me," said Major. "I'm ready to go out there and work, and compete with my brothers out there, my future brothers. They can expect me to be all in and be working every day. I'm going to put on a show."
(Editor's Note: This story appears in the August Kickoff Issue of Sooner Spectator. To subscribe or read more, call 405-364-4515)