The playoffs are here and Quincy Forte still has that look.
That give-me-the-ball look, the one Forte has worn all season, through the highs and lows of his senior season at Eastern Washington.
Through the 190-yard effort in September at Montana State, where he injured his shoulder and didn’t play for a month.
Through a heroic effort at Northern Arizona, where Forte rushed for a career-high 219 yards, and two weeks later against Montana, when he struggled to plant on a sprained ankle and left the game after eight carries.
In short, a season of fireworks and frustration, sometimes on the same day.
Forte is listed as questionable for Saturday’s second-round FCS game against the Grizzlies, when his speed and versatility could turn the game Eastern’s way.
“He’s the type of guy that can break a 70-yard run at any moment and break the game open,” Eastern running back coach Kiel McDonald said. “He’s the Energizer Bunny.”
A fast motor
“I just want to compete,” said Forte, whose life has been all of that since he was the youngest of seven brothers in Fairfield, California.
“They challenged me all the time and built my competitive nature,” said Forte, who matured into an all-star running back and safety at Vacaville High School and was recruited in 2011 by Oregon, Nevada and San Diego State – as a defensive back.
“But I’m a running back in my heart,” Forte said.
Only Eastern coach Beau Baldwin agreed with that notion, and Forte caught a plane to Spokane for his official visit.
Suddenly, it was Forte’s turn to look past the surface.
“The first thing I saw when I got off the plane was snow,” Forte said. “But I liked the small-town feel, they all took care of me and I felt right at home.”
Forte found his niche as a true freshman in 2011, playing in all 11 games and gaining 270 yards on 54 carries. Those numbers doubled the following year as the Eagles recommitted to a balanced offense: 126 carries for 592 yards, but Forte was competing against a crowded backfield.
He also was fighting his impatience, a motor that sometimes ran too fast.
“He’s an awesome guy,” fellow running back Mario Brown said. “He’s very energetic, not medium speed – he’s either on or off.”
Going with the flow
Even in the first part of the 2013 season, Forte was third on the depth chart. But finally, the game began to slow down and he found the patience to wait for holes to develop.
“You see where the O-Line is going, where those linebackers are flowing,” Forte said. “I’ve made great strides in that.”
That led to big strides on the field, beginning with a showdown game with Montana State. Forte rushed for 123 yards in 15 carries and two scores in a 54-29 Eagles romp that all but decided the Big Sky title.
The motor cranked up further in last year’s FCS playoffs: 21 carries for 202 yards against South Dakota State, 23 carries for 190 against Jacksonville State.
By season’s end, Forte had 1,208 yards – eighth most in school history – on 6.74 yards per carry, and 279 receiving yards.
“I’m just relying on my O-Line a lot more,” Forte said. “I’m letting the game come to me. I used to just try to make big plays, but I’ve learned to be patient, and the home runs will come.”
Going the distance
Hobbled or healthy, Forte is looking to the future. He wants to finish strongly at Eastern and play professionally.
“Hopefully on an NFL team – wherever I can fit in,” said Forte, who said he’s spoken with several NFL scouts. “They’ve come around, seen how I’m doing. It’s nice to see folks coming in and checking me out.”
Forte’s future is also tied to his family back in California. That includes his daughter Liliana and her mother, Kaitlin Scott, who live next door to Forte’s mother.
He sorely wanted to play in the Eagles’ game on Sept. 27 at UC Davis but was recovering from the shoulder injury suffered the week before at Montana State.
“That was really tough,” Forte said.
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