When Knox Central's Jeffrey Canady rushed for a school-record 326 yards and five touchdowns in a 27-13 victory over Clinton, Tenn., last Friday, he was just following his father's advice.
"I've always told Jeffrey that when he's running the football to imagine he's on fire, the end zone is a lake, and go jump in it,'" Jeff Canady said with a laugh.
Not that his son needs to be prodded to play hard.
Jeffrey Canady has always been intense, even a little obsessed, about football. Maybe because it's in his genes.
Ray Canady, his grandfather, was a standout player at Barbourville.
Jeff, his dad, was one of four brothers who played the game — Jeff, Mark and Eric at Knox Central, and Brent at Corbin. Mark and Brent played college football at Eastern Kentucky. Jeff played at Cumberland. Eric played baseball at Union College.
(Jeffrey's brother Hayden starts at middle linebacker as a sophomore at Knox Central.)
Jeffrey remembers backyard touch football games with his dad, uncles, brother and cousins on Sunday afternoons.
"Football has been a constant in my life," he said. "I've grown up with it."
And he's grown into one of the best players in the state.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior is Knox Central's all-time leading rusher (2,670 yards), receiver (2,361 yards) and scorer (68 touchdowns).
In his four-year career he's averaged 15 yards every time he's touched the ball.
On defense, he's played cornerback, safety and outside linebacker. He has 213 tackles and 13 interceptions.
He also punts for the Panthers, averaging 48 yards this season, and returns kicks.
Canady thinks of himself as an athlete rather than a one- or two-position player.
Knox Central Coach Scott Russell considers Canady "a slash. He does everything for us."
Canady, who has committed to EKU, has the skills, speed and strength to excel wherever he lines up.
He runs a 4.5 in the 40, has a 36-inch vertical jump, bench-presses 405 pounds and squats 500. (He has the smarts, too. He's a 3.8 student and has a 22 on the ACT.)
Canady's dad was point man in his development, coaching him from first grade through middle school.
Jeff Canady remembers when Jeffrey was in seventh grade he took him to a combine in Atlanta that drew older kids from across the South.
"That opened his eyes," Jeff Canady said. "I told him, 'This is what you've got to compete against to make it at the college level. You do well in Knox County, but there's a big world out there.'
"That really clicked in his mind. He told me, 'Dad, I've got a lot of work to do.'"
And he's done it.
Besides EKU, Canady has offers from Furman, Wofford and Penn.
Canady said Kentucky's interest has run hot and cold.
Russell knows what it's like to be passed over by bigger colleges. He rushed for a state career record 7,090 yards at Evarts (in Harlan County), and was Mr. Football in 1991. He played college ball at Lees-McRae and Union.
Canady has watched game film of Russell in high school and is impressed. "He had shiftiness along with power. That's a tough combination to have."
When Russell watches Canady, he sees a great athlete (who's also run track, and played basketball and baseball at Knox Central).
Russell thinks Canady would be a strong candidate for Mr. Football if not for higher-profile stars such as James Quick of Trinity, Ryan Timmons of Franklin County and Kyle Bolin of Lexington Catholic.
"Sometimes you've got to get the luck of the draw with who else is a senior that year," Russell said. "Mr. Football is a tough award to get, and there's not too many eastern Kentucky players on that list. It's sort of tough on us mountain boys."
Not that Canady is worried about personal honors. His No. 1 goal this season is to lead Knox Central to its first outright district title.
He's fired up, of course, and ready to blaze the way.