BAKER – The tales of Junior McLaughlin will forever be carved in Baker lore.
The man, the myth, the legend finished with 5,240 rushing yards and topped 6,000 all-purpose yards.
He scored 84 touchdowns, including 36 of his 40 starts.
He averaged more than 11 yards per touch.
He eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier all three seasons.
For a program steeped in tradition with four state titles, every rushing record – career- and season-wise – is his.
Yet his footprint extends well beyond the rural parts of Baker. The FHSAA record books will remember McLaughlin fondly too.
His 15 touchdown runs and 1,103 rushing yards in the playoffs during his swan song rank him third and fourth all-time, respectively, in the Sunshine State.
His 1,911 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns over 12 playoffs starts rank him in the top five career-wise.
Florida is a big state, filled with some of the all-time great high school running backs. You’re talking Emmitt Smith, Derrick Henry, Frank Gore and Travis Henry territory.
Alongside that lauded group is McLaughlin, who closed out his career with 2,920 rushing yards, 3,194 all-purpose yards and 40 touchdowns over 13 games (14th was a forfeit win over Joshua Christian Academy).
FYI, those 2,920 rushing yards led the Sunshine State.
Yet to appreciate the season, it takes a proper dissection.
He topped 200 yards and scored multiple touchdowns in all but two starts.
No foe held him out of the end zone, not even Madison County.
He had four passes that went for more than 40 yards, 20 runs that went for more than 50 yards and returned two punts to the house.
“Personally, I don’t think anybody in Florida is a better running back than him,” said teammate Kenny Williams, the Daily News Small Schools Defensive Player of the Year. “In hitting drills I’d always have to go against him. That’s the one person I can’t tackle.”
Matt Brunson said Williams isn’t alone.
“Never did the first guy tackle him,” Brunson said. “He runs a 4.5 40 and he’s this 5-10, 190 bowling ball. He’s such a physical runner.”
Affirming that strength, McLaughlin led the team in the power clean with 325 pounds, was second in the bench behind Zach Mason with 325 pounds and was top five in squats.
“What makes him so strong is his dedication in the weight room,” Brunson said. “Pound for pound no one in our weight room can touch him.”
Understandably, Brunson believes without a doubt McLaughlin will be playing on Saturdays next year.
“Several colleges have interest,” Brunson said. “He’s still taking some tests and has some work to do, but whoever gets him will get a stud.”