URBANA — At the start of September, Eric Kolar’s future path seemed pretty straightforward.
He would finish his last two years at Urbana High School, make significant contributions to the Hawks’ lacrosse program, alongside his twin brother, Jason, and then go on to play the sport at a Division I college or university.
There wasn’t much infringing upon this plan.
But then the revelation happened, opening the eyes and mind of Kolar, his family, his friends, his teammates and coaches to new ideas and possibilities.
Kolar, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound junior, was plugging in as the starting running back for Urbana’s varsity football team. He had played very sparingly on offense in his first two seasons on the team, primarily serving as a cornerback and safety on defense.
In the Sept. 6 season opener at Clarksburg, Kolar rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-27 victory for Urbana. The following week against Middletown, he burst over the left side of his veteran offensive line for a long touchdown run that was called back due to an illegal shift.
Two plays later, he caught a swing pass in the left flat and used his good speed —4.63 seconds in the 40-yard dash— to bust into the clear on a 61-yard run that set up the Hawks’ first touchdown in a 20-13 home win over Middletown.
In addition to making that catch, Kolar finished that game with 206 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
“He is very quick and very tough for his size. He is a hard running back to bring down,” Urbana junior quarterback Kyle Howes said. “He doesn’t usually get tackled by the first guy unless he gets tackled from behind. His vision is very good. He makes quick cuts and can stop on a dime if he wants to.”
Now, with the Hawks off to their best start (5-1) in football since 2013, when they won their first six games, Kolar is one of the leading rushers in Frederick County.
Playing for a pass-happy coach, he has rushed for 696 yards and eight touchdowns on 84 carries, in addition to catching 12 passes for 385 yards and six touchdowns.
His future doesn’t seem quite as clear cut anymore, either. How will the chance and desire to play college football factor into his equation?
“For me personally, it’s been awesome,” Kolar said near the start of Tuesday’s practice, as the Hawks prepared to play on the road against Oakdale (3-3) this Friday.
“I never thought I could do some of the stuff that I have been doing.”
Kolar didn’t start playing football until he was in sixth grade, and even then, he wasn’t carrying the ball because he was over the weight limit.
“It was definitely frustrating,” he said of not having the ball in his hands.
But Urbana football coach Brad Wilson saw the way he moved on a lacrosse field, his speed and ability to change directions quickly, and thought he could thrive as a running back.
“His vision. He sees the field well,” Wilson said of Kolar. “Because of lacrosse, he can cut on a dime and accelerate quickly.”
He added, “In this offense, if you are a running back that can catch, that helps everything else out.”
Wilson is still reluctant to embrace the idea that he is at the helm of a running team this season. But, with a talented back like Kolar running behind an offensive line with five returning starters, he is not going to get away from what is working.
In a 42-28 victory over visiting Tuscarora on Oct. 4, Kolar carried the ball a season-high 28 times for 250 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to catching three scoring passes from Howes.
The young quarterback has noticed more and more defenders creeping near the line and scrimmage in order to stop Kolar as a running back, and that is opening up things for Urbana in the passing game.
Although, Wilson admits the Hawks are running the ball far more than he anticipated.
“I told you. We run the ball if we have to,” Wilson said after the victory over Middletown. “Hey, if the running game is there, we are going to go for it.”
As far as his future goes, Kolar want to see how the rest of the football season is going to play out and evaluate his options then.
If given the chance, he said he’d love to play both football and lacrosse in college, though he admitted that would be very difficult.
His father, Dan, was a running back for Good Counsel High School and went on to play football at Georgetown University.
“Playing running back, it’s insane. I love it,” Eric Kolar said. “I love running behind my offensive line. I love being able to see the field and doing everything like that. I feel like I can control the game, too. That helps our team a lot.”