Midwest City running back James Flanders does so many things well, his coach struggles to come up with a favorite.
But the first things that come to mind aren't Flanders' speed, hands or power.
“It's how much fun he has playing the game,” Midwest City coach Steve Huff said. “He brings a different mentality to the game than anyone else I've been around.”
Flanders had plenty of reasons to smile this season, running for 2,456 yards and 44 touchdowns in helping Midwest City to an 11-1 season.
His efforts earned him a spot on The Oklahoman's All-State team and Big All-City offensive Player of the Year honors.
“I just like playing the game,” Flanders said. “I don't know why guys don't show that much but it's fun.”
Twice this season, Flanders scored six times in a game.
One of those was in the season finale, a second-round overtime loss to Owasso.
“He's a great player,” Owasso coach Bill Patterson said of Flanders. “He's got incredible instincts and his competitiveness sets him apart.”
At 5-foot-10 and weighing in the high 160s-low 170s entering the offseason, Flanders saw some comments that he wasn't big enough to play big-time college football.
“I don't think they ever called him skinny but just said he wasn't big enough,” Huff said. “He really took that to heart and made himself a lot stronger in the offseason. He's always been a very good running back for as long as I've known him but that pushed him to get even better.”
Flanders can't remember where the comment came from but says it was a driving force over the summer. He played the season weighing just more than 180.
“James is an unbelievable athlete,” said Bombers linebacker Zeke Lewis, who has played with Flanders for at least six years. “You could put him at any position besides punter and he'd do a great job. He's just so competitive.”
Even with the size he was before this season, Flanders was solid all around.
“His ability to block really adds to him as a player,” Huff said. “He runs some power game where he's the kick-out back and we can do some different things because of that.”
It's no secret that his brothers — James and Timothy — played a big part in turning him into the player he's become. With James finishing his Bombers career with 4,856 yards and 81 touchdowns, the three brothers combined for 10,483 yards and 167 total touchdowns.
James is committed to Tulsa, where John will be a senior next season, but is also receiving some interest from other schools.