Coming into the 2016 football season, Robbinsdale Cooper junior Phoenix Sproles was not sure what his role on the team was going to be.
“My season went way better than I thought it would,” Sproles said. “I didn't think I would be a key player this year because of the returning starters. I knew how hard everyone had worked and I thought I would just be doing my part.”
As two-a-days progressed, Sproles started to feel his role expanding.
“I started to see myself taking more of a leadership role. I started to pattern my game after (former teammate) Phillip Howard. He told me just to be the player I am. Together with my team, we got that done.”
Now, after his junior season, he already has ten offers.
The Hawks lost just two games last season, both to eventual state runner-up Spring Lake Park.
“We improved every week,” Sproles said. “We had a lot of key players who were returning starters. We fell short against Spring Lake Park twice, but you learn from your mistakes, and we are going to do what we can to fix that for next year.”
In 2016 the Hawks seemed to be at their best – on both sides of the ball – when the ball was in the air.
“Our quarterback – Cameron King – had over 2000 passing yards this season,” the junior safety said. “On defense with myself and our other safety Aaron DeSouza, we had a total of fifteen interceptions. Our linebacker Onte Burns had six interceptions as well. Our ability to go and high point the ball on the defensive side was a key factor.”
Sproles' main position on offense was wide receiver.
“I played the receiver who would do most of the quick routes,” NFN’s 34th ranked junior said. “My job was to make people miss.”
Next season Sproles expects to be more of a deep threat. It is a position the Hawks usually like to use a taller receiver, but at 6'0″, Sproles hopes to use a different set of skills to make up for his lack of height.
“I am going to try to throw off the defender with footwork and crisp routes.”
Defensively the junior uses his experience on offense to make him more efficient.
“If the ball is in the air, it is going to end up in my hands,” Sproles told northstarfootballnews.com. “That is our mentality, and that is how we are coached. Since I am an offensive player as well, I know the routes receivers are running. I can pick up things receivers do to tip off their routes.”
Sproles also was a kick returner and played some read option quarterback.
This winter Sproles focused on the weight room and has put on almost fifteen pounds of muscle and has increased his bench press by twenty pounds. This spring he is running track and will be focusing on the sprints while also continuing with his weight room workouts.
The junior is focusing on improving his feet and hips to be able to get in and out of cuts more effectively.
College football programs interested in Sproles has reached double digits. North Dakota State, Illinois State, Air Force, Northern Iowa, Montana State, South Dakota, South Dakota State, Princeton, Columbia, and Brown have all offered the soon to be two-year starter.
Most of the schools are recruiting him as a receiver, but they are also recruiting an excellent student. During his freshman and sophomore years, he has not seen his GPA fall below 3.8.
“I have always been told by my parents that I need good grades, or I am not playing,” Sproles said. “That has always been in my head. They enforced that strictly. I didn't have a choice. Football is something I enjoyed, so I've just made sure that I never have to worry about my grades.”
From not sure of how much of an impact he was going to have during his junior season to contemplating playing Division I football; it has been quite a year for Phoenix Sproles.