BROCKPORT, NY — Some may say running backs in the sport of football aren’t important anymore. Trends over recent years in football show a declining impact of running backs. The Brockport Golden Eagles disagree with this trend.
With football at every level becoming more focused on the passing game, Brockport keeps it old school, having an offense built on the running game.
Brockport has a stable full of talented running backs. They brought in five new freshmen to load up the backfield to reinforce junior standout Gino Fontanarosa, and senior Jala Coad. Fontanarosa was an Empire 8 all conference second team selection in 2022.
Since 2018, the richest running back contract handed out in the NFL was to former Los Angeles Rams back Todd Gurley who got a four-year $57.5 million contract in 2018. Meanwhile, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow signed a five-year, $275 million contract last summer. With football at every level becoming more focused on the passing game, Brockport keeps it old school, having an offense built on the running game.
The Golden Eagles Head football coach Jason Mangone was able to find two talented freshmen in Cameron Mesh, and Isaiah Simmons, who in their first season with the program are making a big impact.
“Those guys got enough reps early on to be comfortable,” Mangone said. “It’s a little different at the college level.”
Brockport currently sits at 7-1 overall on the season with two games remaining in the regular season. Up next there is no game bigger than their matchup with SUNY Cortland.
“Just do what we do,” Mesh said. “Be more physical than anyone else and just come out and play strong and play fast.”
The Golden Eagles have a well utilized group of running backs. They have four different backs with 40 or more carries through their first eight games. With Fontanarosa suffering a season ending arm injury, the youngsters will have even brighter lights on them. Fontanarosa leads the way with 85 carries, for 464 yards and eight touchdowns. Coad has 96 carries, for 420 yards and six touchdowns. Mesh has 42 carries, for 307 yards and four touchdowns. Finally, Simmons has 44 carries, for 291 yards and four touchdowns.
“I knew I could come in and do the best I can to help this team win,” Mesh said. “I take a lot of pride in us and definitely in the offensive line. I take a lot of pride in knowing everything we can do offensively to help this team win.”
As a team Brockport averaged 222.5 yards-per-game and totaled 1,780 yards through their first eight games. Mangone loves to recruit backs who are dynamic and can make plays. The stats show Brockport’s running game has been effective week in and week out.
“The reality is there’s a lot of guys that like to get the ball and run somebody over,” Mangone said. “That’s great and that’s helpful but if you watch the SEC or ACC or a Big 12 game, and you watch a tailback, odds are they’re making somebody miss on almost every play.”
There’s a lot of competition for carries come game day. With all the talent in this back field, you’d think there would be a lot of bitterness and rivalry, but at Brockport, it’s a brotherhood and they all try to help and support each other. No one’s bigger than the team and that speaks volumes about Fontanarosa and Coad, who are mentors to the young running backs.
“They’re great, they always help me on the sideline, even just getting mental reps,” Simmons said. “They’ll still walk me through, talk to me, and that’s been a big help for me just getting used to the system.”
Simmons, Mesh and the rest of these young running backs are hungry, waiting in the wings to fully take over the backfield once Fontanarosa and Coad move on. Simmons specifically has his sights set high for the kind of impact he wants to make as a Golden Eagle.
“I want to be one of the best here, I want to be remembered for doing the dirty work, being hard working and everything like that,” Simmons said.
The Golden Eagle’s running back room has a bright future. Mesh and Simmons have been extremely promising.
Another freshman running back Damari Hamilton has also shown promise in limited game action as well. Along with those three, Gino Fontanarosa will presumably return to Brockport for his senior year once he recovers from a fractured forearm which sidelined him after just seven games during his junior year.
Even with the loss of Jala Coad after this season concludes, the Golden Eagles have plenty of young and hungry backs ready to take over and lead the Golden Eagle offense into the future.