Cocoa (Fla.) head coach John Wilkinson has a ton of responsibilities each day as a teacher and the coach of a state powerhouse football program. Fortunately he has ESPN 150 athlete Tarean Folston on his side, and having the 5-foot-10, 190-pound senior seems to make things that much easier on the gridiron.
Case in point, two years ago Wilkinson had to call on then-sophomore Folston to help Cocoa through some tight situations. At the time Cocoa's top rusher, Chevelle Buie, was being disciplined and Wilkinson wasn't sure if he would have Buie available for the state semifinal and championship games.
Folston, who had already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark that season as a backup, accepted the role as Cocoa's feature back and led the Tigers through two physical battles against Madison County and Glades Central to win the school's third straight state title.
"Tarean's just one of those young men that will do whatever it takes to get you to the finish line," Wilkinson said. "I've had to rely on him to be the running back, the quarterback at times and play a lot of snaps on defense. He's always comes through for me."
Combine Folston's leadership with his impressive production and it's easy to see why he was presented his Under Armour All-America Game jersey Wednesday afternoon. Folston will have an opportunity to showcase his versatility during the Jan. 4 contest as he could line up at running back or in the defensive backfield.
"They told me that it's likely I'll be a running back but if numbers dictate me playing on defense, then I will work with the defensive backs," Folston said. "Either way it's a big honor to be part of this game. I've seen the game over the last few years and it just looks like a lot of fun. It's going to be very competitive and exciting."
That's about all one can expect to get from Folston on his new All-American status. Wilkinson said he doesn't yearn for the attention or the spotlight.
"Tarean just loves the game, he loves to compete and he wants to focus on being a good teammate, a good student and a good person," Wilkinson explained. "I know he appreciates a lot of the accolades but he's a little uncomfortable with all the attention sometimes.
"He's really been a pleasure to coach and he's been a major part of the success this program has had. As a coach you always wish you could have more [players] like him."
Tarean's low-key nature can be defined by a play he made two weeks ago when Cocoa defeated Orlando (Fla.) Jones to win the district championship. After Jones rallied in the final two minutes to tie the game at 24, Folston calmly led Cocoa down the field, first converting on a fourth-and-one down and then taking his final carry of the game 31 yards to the end zone.
As his teammates and coaches went crazy on the sideline, Folston just casually handed the ball to the official and readied himself for the kickoff.
"I just did what I was taught to do on that play," Folston explained. "The hole was there and I went through it. Everyone did what they were supposed to do on that play so we all deserve credit."
Not surprisingly he accepted his jersey on behalf of his teammates, his coaches and his community, which sits 40 miles east of Orlando. The way Folston sees it; his success on the field isn't a one-man job.