Four months ago, Sausan Shakerin was like most juniors at Alta High School — anonymous. Even he didn't think of himself as anything special. He was simply No. 22 on the football team.

Boy, how things changed over the course of 14 Friday nights. One week after another, Shakerin started developing a reputation that was increasing exponentially.

"Did you see Shak last night?"

"Did you see that run he made?"

"Can you believe he's only a junior?"

On Aug. 18, Shakerin was just another football player. By Nov. 17, he was the most talked-about player in the state, and the obvious choice for the 2006 Deseret Morning News Mr. Football award.

Even though Alta narrowly lost to Bingham in the 5A championship game on Nov. 17, Shakerin put on a show that neither the KJZZ television audience nor the approximately 15,000 fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium will soon forget.

Facing one of the most dominating defenses in state history, Shakerin carried the ball 29 times for 276 yards and three touchdowns. It was the second greatest championship-game performance in state history, but Shakerin will never remember it that way.

"Right now it's just really hard to talk," said an emotional Shakerin after the game. "It's just pain right now."

Asked to talk more about himself mere minutes after the toughest loss of his young career, Shakerin deflected praise to his teammates and further typified the type of humble player and person he really is.

"I felt I did really well, but it's all my line," he said. "You can see they're opening holes for me. My receivers are getting the stock blocks. I know I get the credit, but I give all my credit to my offensive line."

On the 10th anniversary of the Mr. Football award, it's hard to imagine a more humble, yet deserving, recipient.

Shakerin finished the season with 247 carries for 2,267 yards and 24 rushing touchdowns. His total yardage ranked as the fourth-greatest season in state history.

"If he stays healthy, he may become one of the best-ever athletes to come out of the state of Utah," Alta coach Les Hamilton said. "That excites him and makes him want to work harder."

Some big-time collegiate programs are taking notice. Florida, Oregon, Cal, Arizona State, Utah and BYU are some of the major players who've emerged in the Shakerin sweepstakes. What's not to like about an upright, powerful yet fast runner who's very tough to tackle?

"As I've talked to a few college coaches, everything they've seen of him on film they think of (former BYU running back) Luke Staley," Hamilton said. "Big, fast, physical, good lateral movement. When he gets outside, a lot of people can't catch him."

That happened during a 98-yard kickoff return to open a regular-season game against Jordan earlier this season. It happened on Shakerin's unforgettable 80-yard touchdown run against Bingham in the championship game.

On top of his onfield exploits, he's also great in the classroom and the weight room. He's a very good student, which should only open more collegiate opportunities. He can squat 430 pounds, more than any player in the Alta program.

"He's just a very humble, well-rounded kid," Hamilton said. "He just wants to be part of our team being successful. He wouldn't care if he gained a yard if he could win a state championship."

This award does, however, help with bragging rights in the family. Once upon a time, Shakerin had a friendly wager with his cousin, Bo Nagahi, about who would become the better football player. Skyline's Nagahi ended up winning the Mr. Football award in 1999, but he was a senior. Shakerin is just a junior, and two Mr. Football trophies would definitely constitute bragging rights.

That moment, if it ever comes to fruition, is a long way off. Nonetheless, with Shakerin coming back next year, count Alta among the early front-runners for the 5A championship.

Mr. Football winners

1997 — Morgan Scalley, Highland (Utah)

1998 — David Fiefia, Hunter (Utah State)

1999 — Bo Nagahi, Skyline (Utah)

2000 — Steve Tate, Skyline (Utah)

2001 — Daniel Coats, Northridge (BYU)

2002 — Kyle Brady, Tooele (Utah)

2003 — Ray Feinga, Hunter (BYU)

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2004 — Jason Zundel, Bear River (UVSC baseball)

2005 — Riley Nelson, Logan (Utah State)

2006 — Sausan Shakerin, Alta (undecided)


E-mail: jedward@desnews.com

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