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July 20, 2008
PAISLEY, Fla. ? Marlin Lane Jr. won't have a problem making the transition from a tiny religious school with little athletic competition to one of the most consistent football powerhouses in Florida.
If he can excel at the Top Gun Showcase Camp, as he did this weekend, he can excel anywhere.
Lane, a class of 2011 running back, is moving from DeLand (Fla.) Lighthouse Christian School Academy to Daytona Beach Mainland next month, a prospect that once sounded a little intimidating. Not anymore -- not after Lane proved his worth against some of the top senior players in the country, who gathered at the All-Star Sports Training Complex in rural central Florida for the Camp.
Lane was competing in his own backyard -- Paisley is about 20 miles west of DeLand, which, in turn is about 30 miles southwest of Daytona Beach -- and he looked like it.
"If you didn't know his age, you'd say he was as mature as any of them out there," said Tony Marciano, a former NFL assistant who now is director of football operations at the Complex.
Still, Marciano foresees an adjustment for Lane.
"He's going to be hit this year like he's never been hit before," he said. "It'll be like going from a junior college to a major program. But in a couple years, you'll be saying he's one of the top running backs in the country."
As a freshman at Lighthouse, Lane rushed for 1,363 yards (10.7 yards per carry) and 21 touchdowns despite rarely playing in the second half of games because of lopsided scores. He rushed for 1,007 yards as an eighth-grader in just six games, missing half the season with a rotator cuff injury.
Lane, who is 6 feet 1 and 190 pounds, showed good acceleration, nice athleticism and soft hands this weekend, never looking out of place among the nation's elite players. He has been timed consistently at 1.5 seconds for his first 10 yards, an explosiveness that fits well for a major college running back.
Lane had two of the best testing results of the camp, with a 33.5-inch vertical leap and a 4.24-second shuttle time.
"Better competition is just going to make me better. I love competition," Lane said after the Sunday morning workout. "And the physical part of the game doesn't bother me. I like it. That's why I love football."
Lane has been working out at the All-Star Camp almost since his freshman year ended, exhibiting a work ethic that Marciano said he has rarely seen in a high school athlete. "If he's not working at the camp, he's out running sand hills" in the hot Florida sun. That's akin to running stadium steps -- except you're climbing soft sand.
"You just can't tire him out," Marciano said. "He thrives on it."
Lane next week will play in the AAU Basketball Nationals at Disney's Wide World of Sports for the Nike U15 Florida team. Then it's back to football, still his first love, and getting ready for Mainland High, a program that typically is one of the 20 or so best in Florida every year.
"My goal is to play in college. I'd love to play at Clemson," Lane said. "I've never been there, but I can tell it's a football town. They just go nuts over football. Tennessee, Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech -- those would be my other choices.
"I won't go to a Florida school. I've been in Florida all my life, and I know I'll want to try somewhere different."