Being the starting running back on a high school football team is a big responsibility. Still, that's nothing compared to what North Dallas (Texas) High star Geremy Alridge faces every day when he leaves school, returning home expected to play a significant role in helping raise his younger siblings.
According to the Dallas Morning News' Matt Wixon, Alridge became the man of the house at only 8, when his stepfather Roderick Johnson lost a long battle with lupus. In one of his final days, Johnson reportedly pulled Alridge aside and told him it was now his responsibility to help take care of his mother and three siblings.
That's a lot to ask of an 8-year-old. Alridge has no relationship whatsoever with his birth father and was raised to think of Johnson as his father. He still thinks of him during games, pointing to the sky after each touchdown.
There have been plenty of those end-zone celebrations this year, with North Dallas riding a vastly improved core of senior leadership to the verge of the state playoffs. At 5-4, the Bulldogs would be in prime position for the postseason with one more win at South Oak Cliff on Friday night.
Reaching the playoffs would be a monumental achievement for North Dallas, which only broke an epic 26-game losing streak last season. The school hasn't played in the state playoffs since 1952, a break that's the longest in Texas and longer than the recent World Series title drought snapped by the Giants.
Despite his responsibilities on the field, Alridge hasn't taken his mentoring of his brothers and sister lightly. He claims he's tried to dedicate all his time outside of school and football to his family, a pursuit which he said has made him ready to leave and attend college if a football scholarship ever comes his way. While the senior has received plenty of interest from schools, he's yet to receive a firm scholarship offer.
If and when he does, the North Dallas star says he'll be the first in his family to attend college.
"I still feel like I have to take care of my mom and my brothers and sisters," Alridge told the Morning-News. "I don't think anyone can do a better job of it than me. ...
"I make mistakes, but I always try to do everything I can," he says. "I know they're going to look at me and do what I do and mimic what I do."
While Alridge's family will miss him, the North Dallas football program will, too. Wixon says the senior's 3,289 yards might be a school record. While the North Dallas coaching staff sees Alridge as nearly irreplaceable, they're also confident he deserves to play at the next level, and will succeed there.
"He doesn't ever want to come off the field," North Dallas coach Brad Peirson told the Morning News. "He's like, 'Coach, can I play safety? Can I play cornerback? Can I play linebacker?' ...
"I think Geremy can play running back in Division I football. He's not the fastest, but man, he is an amazing runner. What college coaches don't see is his determination."