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Kettle Run’s Eldridge likely to emerge as D-I football recruit after explosive season

Wednesday, Dec. 4 | By Jeff Malmgren

Kettle Run junior receiver/defensive back/kick returner David Eldridge scored 15 touchdowns this year in a variety of ways. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Tina and David Eldridge Jr. began to worry.

Their 1-year-old son hadn’t learned to crawl yet. So they took him to a doctor.

The doctor simply told them to be patient. They were, but still nothing changed.

At least not until they went to a Super Bowl XXXII party on January 25, 1998.

David Eldridge III didn’t crawl at that party. The 14-month-old boy had something better in store for his parents.

“We looked in the kitchen,” his father recalled recently. “He just stood up and started running. He just took off … and he’s been going ever since.”

Fifteen years after scoffing at the crawl-before-you-walk adage, Eldridge has developed into one of the most explosive football players in VHSL Conference 27, in large part because of his speed. The Kettle Run High junior runs a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, according to his family.

Eldridge hasn’t been timed since March, but over the past eight months he’s provided plenty of anecdotal evidence that he’s fast. A 6-foot-1, 165-pound, all-purpose player, Eldridge scored a team-high 15 touchdowns for Kettle Run this season, often leaving defenders and teammates behind like train cars unhitched from the engine.

“Everyone tells me I have long strides and it’s hard to keep up with me,” Eldridge said. “My parents tell me those stories about when I was a baby. … I guess that was a sign. The speed stuck with me.”

Touchdown tendency

David Eldridge is losing his touch.

As a Kettle Run junior, he scored an average of 1.2 points every time he got his hands on the football. That pales in comparison to his production a few years ago while playing in the Fauquier Youth Football league.

“He would average four, five touchdowns a game,” Eldridge’s father said. “He’s scoring less now in high school.”

Eldridge’s “less” is pretty impressive, though. He touched the ball 74 times this past season as a receiver, defensive back, kick returner and punt returner. That translated to 1,463 yards (19.8 per touch) and 15 touchdowns.

“He just has a lot of big play ability,” Kettle Run receivers/defensive backs coach Delmar Christian said. “He’s just natural when he gets the ball – finding seams and getting beyond the secondary. He knows how to make guys miss.”

As a junior receiver, Eldridge had 654 yards and nine touchdowns on 31 catches, giving him 1.7 points per reception. He was a weapon on wide receiver screens, deep passes down the field and everything in between.

“He has great instincts to be able to cut back against the grain,” Christian said. “And he has very deceptive speed. David doesn’t look like he’s going that fast because of his long strides, but once he gets going he is.”

For that reason, Kettle Run coaches often incorporated Eldridge into the Cougars’ run game, too. Often on end-arounds or jet sweeps, he ran the ball 14 times for 108 yards and a touchdown.

“My team does a great job of blocking,” Eldridge said. “I couldn’t do it without them. It’s hard to make 11 people miss” by yourself.

As a defensive back, Eldridge added 37 return yards and a touchdown on two interceptions. Perhaps most impressive, though, was Eldridge’s play on special teams.

There’s a reason opponents kicked off to him only 10 times this past season. Eldridge amassed 371 yards and three touchdowns on kick returns – that’s 37.1 yards and 1.8 points per return. He also had 17 punt returns for 293 yards and a touchdown.

“Kick returns I like better than sweeps or receptions,” Eldridge said. “Usually you have more time and open space to make people miss.

“I just try to get as many yards as I can; try to make the other team pay,” he said. “I try not to think about [scoring] too much because that’s when you make mistakes.”

Eldridge holds Kettle Run’s record for longest kick return after scoring a 95-yard touchdown this season, and he tied Kettle Run records with three kick returns for touchdowns in a season and four kick returns for touchdowns in a career. He also set single-season records in receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and punt return yards, and he holds Kettle Run’s career record with 46 receptions.

“Kick returns, he’s really great at them right now,” Christian said. “But as a receiver, he can still improve on route running and blocking.”

That’s probably the scariest thing for teams that will have to face Eldridge as a senior next season.

D-I interest building

College football teams have shown minimal interest in David Eldridge thus far, but the lanky 16-year-old should jump off the screen when coaches watch highlights of his junior season.

Not to mention his actual jumping ability. Eldridge had a 37-inch vertical leap when last measured in March.

“I expect him to get a lot of interest just based on his capability in the return game and his big-play ability at wide receiver,” Delmar Christian said. “This offseason, that’s when that generally picks up. After their junior year, they really get an idea about who’s serious about being interested.”

Eldridge has received recruiting material from Richmond, James Madison, Towson, Virginia and Cincinnati, but that was based mostly off his sophomore season before his full talent was on display. Eldridge had 293 yards and three touchdowns on 15 receptions as a sophomore, adding a rushing touchdown and an interception return touchdown.

Then, in the offseason, he added two inches and 15 pounds to his 5-11, 150-pound frame, worked with College Prep World and attended a bunch of college camps and combines, where he stood out as a top athlete.

“I think I’ve gotten a lot more confidence in myself,” Eldridge said. “The fact that I was a sophomore and playing against seniors over-generated in my head. … I don’t get scared anymore because I know what I can do against anybody. I just know my ability.”

“He has learned the offense better,” Christian said. “He understands what he’s supposed to be looking for and what he need to do when he gets certain coverages.”

Those improvements show up on film, which Eldridge’s father spent time dissecting every weekend this past season. He has compiled highlight clips of his son and sent them out to college coaches.

“He gets my name out there, and I appreciate that,” David Eldridge III said. “That’s my goal, to play football at the college level and get a free education.”

Eldridge said he would love to play for Ohio State, Florida or Southern California. His father grew up in Columbus, Ohio, while Eldridge spent part of his youth in Sacramento, Calif.

Eldridge didn’t begin playing football until moving to Virginia, though. He joined FYF at age six and played mostly running back, quarterback and defensive back through middle school. Then Eldridge converted to receiver as a freshman at Liberty High, where he played on the freshman team prior to transferring to Kettle Run.

Eldridge said Liberty’s coaches asked him to play varsity as a freshman, but he declined.

“I thought about it, but I probably would have just been practice squad, so I decided to just stay with the freshman team to get the feel of high school football,” Eldridge said. “And I was definitely smaller then.”

At this time next year, Eldridge could be looking back on his junior season and saying the same thing. He expects to add more height and weight in the offseason with his growth chart projecting him to be as large as 6-4 and 195 pounds.

“He has no idea how good he could be," Cougars head coach Jeff Lloyd said. "He’s still young. If he continues and gets bigger and stronger and he decides football is what he wants to do, he’ll play on a Division I team.”

Eldridge also plans to lend his height and leaping ability to the Kettle Run boys basketball team this winter. When he recently played with the Cougars in their summer league, he had a revelation.

“I dunked with two hands, and I was kind of surprised,” he said. “I wasn’t even aware that I could dunk that easy.”

It was easier than learning to crawl.

- - - - -

The Eldridge File

Family: Father, David Jr., and mother, Tina, work for the federal government; sister, Quana Williams, is a registered Nurse in Las Vegas.

Favorite football play: “I like the screen because it gets the ball to my hands fast. I like to try and juke people and make people miss. It’s kind of up to you and following your blocks and reading it."

Favorite sports teams/players: Philadelphia Eagles/LeSean McCoy and Chicago Bulls/Derrick Rose. “McCoy, the elusiveness and awareness on the field. You may not think he sees you, but then he can make you miss. He’s fast and finds holes. I kind of look up to him and the way he moves.”

Favorite movie: “S.W.A.T.” “Me and my dad watch that movie a lot. We love it. We’ve watched it since elementary school.”

Candy fiend: “I love candy. My friends always make fun of me because I always eat sour patch kids. I always have them with me. I eat them after our team meal. … It gives me energy to be ready to go. Then after the game I eat some more.”

Favorite music artist: Wale. “But my parents listen to a lot of old school music – jazz. I like the sound of that.”

Favorite TV show: “The Walking Dead.” “I catch up on that on the weekends On Demand. My mom and dad think it’s kind of nasty, so they don’t watch it with me.”

Favorite restaurants: Bertucci's Italian Restaurant and Outback Steakhouse. “I just love Italian food. Bertucci's, they have good pizza. I always devour the bread and butter.”

Favorite class: Social Studies. “I just like learning about history of the U.S. and other countries, and our past.”

Future plans: Hopes to play football in college and major in business management.

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