Umid Ramizov was the classic case of unrealized potential.
The Kamiakin running back had screwed around the first couple years of high school and was going nowhere fast with the Braves football team.
But after talking to head coach Scott Biglin, running back coach Kevin McAfee and Tri-Cities Fever wide receiver Steven Whitehead, Ramizov decided to put in the hard work needed to have a big senior year.
The turnaround has been nothing short of remarkable.
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After rushing for just 130 yards as a junior, Ramizov lived in the weight room in the offseason and finished the regular season with 1,396 yards and 20 touchdowns. He leads the Braves (8-2) into the Class 3A state playoffs at 4 p.m. today against Columbia River High of Vancouver.
“I’ve definitely put a lot more time into it,” Ramizov said. “Training with Steven Whitehead, our coaches here — it has helped me have a good year.”
Whitehead runs a training program in Pasco and works with many of the area’s top high school football players. He has taken Ramizov under his wing and helped guide him to becoming the player he is today.
“Last year he wasn’t very focused, was a team clown,” Whitehead said. “Took him this year and made it a point how important this year was, how hard he needed to work. And he just took off with it.
“He is one of the strongest kids, fastest kids and one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever been around. I’m nothing but proud of him.”
Ramizov has only been playing football since eighth grade. His family moved from Istanbul, Turkey, when he was 4 years old, settling on the Tri-Cities because of family in the area.
He might be a late-comer to football, but he is still a force to be reckoned with. He has speed, power and size. In fact, he also plays defensive end, not your standard crossover position for a running back.
“His work ethic in the weight room is by far the best thing for him,” Biglin said. “He was in there every day. Got together with a bunch of seniors that were kind of living in the weight room and he lived in there all winter long, all spring long and all summer long.
“He grew to about 215 (pounds), just because he ate right and got in there and worked hard.”
The effect has been noticeable on the field.
“He has speed. He has strength. He is a tough kid, nothing seems to faze him,” Biglin said. “He still doesn’t know the game as much as I’d like him to know it, but he’s only been around it a short time. His strength and quickness have got him to where he’s at now.”
Ramizov finished second in the Mid-Columbia Conference in rushing and tied for first in scoring. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry and his 20 rushing touchdowns are the most in the MCC. But most importantly, he has helped balance the high-powered Kamiakin offense.
“He has that drive that he wants to get that extra yard for the first down,” Kamiakin senior Sterling Farrah said. “When you work out everyday with your teammates, you have that drive that you want to win. You want to get better and win with the team. It all started in the weight room.”
Now, Ramizov and his teammates are hoping all that hard work will pay off in more than just good regular-season stats. The Braves are hoping to put together another deep playoff run.
“We’ve been slacking these last couple of weeks, but starting (now), we’re focused a lot,” Ramizov said.
And if Kamiakin’s focus is anything like Ramizov’s has been the last year, then opponents are in trouble.