WATERVILLE — The play came near the end of a recent Colby College football practice. Senior running back Jabari Hurdle-Price swung out of the backfield to the left flat, where he took a pass, made one defender miss, and sprinted down the sideline to the end zone. The play drew applause and cheers from players and coaches, before the Mules moved on to the next play.

“That’s a brand new play,” Hurdle-Price said minutes after practice ended. “Hopefully, we get that in during a game.”

Whether it’s that play or dozens of others in the Colby playbook, head coach Jonathan Michaeles and new offensive coordinator Kevin Bourgoin will make sure Hurdle-Price gets his hands on the ball as much as possible this season. The Mules are coming off a season in which they ranked last in the New England Small College Athletic Conference in scoring (12.4 points per game). If that’s going to improve, Hurdle-Price, one of the Mules captains, will be a big reason why. Colby opens the season on Saturday at Williams College.

Last season, Hurdle-Price ran for 728 yards and six touchdowns, finishing second in the NESCAC in rushing yards and becoming the first Colby back to earn first team all-NESCAC honors since Aaron Stepka in 2002.

“He’s just gotten better every year,” Michaeles said of Hurdle-Price. “He’s an explosive kid. He’s instinctive. He can put his foot in the ground and make somebody miss and get vertical in a hurry. He’s not the biggest guy (Hurdle-Price is 5-foot-8, 185 pounds), but he will break tackles. He will grind out the extra yards. It’s not just all open field flash.”

Hurdle-Price started outlining his goals for the upcoming season in terms of team play.

“First off, as a team, we’ve got to do much better. We went 1-7 last year. We had a couple tough, close games. We’ve had a bunch of great practices. Everyone’s working hard. We’re in really good shape,” Hurdle-Price said. “Play hard every single down and the numbers will be there, hopefully.”

A Bronx, New York native, Hurdle-Price’s college football career started slowly. Minor injuries banged him up, and Hurdle-Price had just four carries for 7 yards that season. Even with limited playing time, getting on the field for his first college game, a 31-8 win over Williams, made an impression.

“There was energy in the crowd. Nothing better than a win, and that was an all-around team victory,” Hurdle-Price said.

Hurdle-Price earned his first career start in Week 3 of his sophomore season against Wesleyan. When starter Carl Lipani went down with an injury, Hurdle-Price became Colby’s primary ball carrier. Hurdle-Price had 26 carries for 101 yards, and scored his first career touchdown with a 7-yard run early in the second quarter.

“I kind of went a little overboard when I got in the end zone. I threw my hands up, spiked the ball a little bit. Coach (Michaeles) wasn’t too happy about that,” Hurdle-Price said. “No penalty, thank God. We got away with it. I think that might’ve been the reason I started the next game, because I didn’t get the penalty.”

Hurdle-Price finished his sophomore season with 533 yards rushing, fourth-best in the NESCAC. He followed that up with the strong junior season in which he led the NESCAC in all-purpose yards (153.8 yards per game), and that raised expectations for this season. In August, Hurdle-Price was named to the Football Gameplan preseason Division III all-America team.

“He just works his tail off. You see him running all over the field every practice for the last three years. He doesn’t stop. It’s been rewarding for everybody to see him succeed to the level at which he has,” Michaeles said. “It hasn’t just fallen into his lap.”

Hurdle-Price is good in space, and also will run hard between the tackles, Michaeles said.

“He makes good reads and the line gets great push for him. He’s able to extend a 4-yard play into a 6- to 8-yard play, and those are really the difference makers over the course of a game,” Michaeles said.

“It comes from hard work. I had a bunch of good guys ahead of me who showed me the way. Other than that, just focusing up. Coming in every day and working hard. Working hard in the offseason. Just trying to be as consistent as possible. Hoping everything pays off, and it has so far,” Hurdle-Price said.

Before coming to Colby, Bourgoin spent several years as offensive coordinator at the University of Maine, where he orchestrated a spread offense with the Black Bears. Hurdle-Price led the Mules with 30 receptions last season, and he and Michaeles hope to see him become even more involved with Colby’s passing game. The excitement shown by the entire team following Hurdle-Price’s big catch and run at practice was an offshoot of that.

“He catches well, and he can do something after the catch,” Michaeles said. “We’re playing to our personnel, as we always do. Philosophically, we believe in the same things that we always have. We have a little more versatility this year, we think. I think you’ll see a lot of similar stuff. It’s all about getting the best 11 in position to play great football.”

Hurdle-Price said Bourgoin hasn’t surprised him with any unexpected offensive wrinkles yet.

“For the most part, things are pretty much the same. I’m definitely trying to get involved with the passing game a little bit more. I like to pattern my game around being able to do a little bit of everything,” Hurdle-Price said.

Hurdle-Price is a Psychology major, with a minor in Sociology. The minor is his mother’s influence.

“My mom actually does a lot of work around conflict resolution. I’ve always grown up in that area. She was always pounding that into my head. She wanted me to be sociology (major), so I picked up the minor for her,” Hurdle-Price said. “Psychology, I’ve always been interested in learning about people, why they do things, how does their environment make them do things.”

In the Colby football team environment, Hurdle-Price’s presence makes everyone better. Michaeles said he sees the results of Hurdle-Price’s leadership in the overall play of the Mules running backs.

“He’s a great team player. The whole position has improved this year. The guys are following his lead. Jake Schwern has done a nice job. Dan Roache, a junior, has done a tremendous job. There are two freshmen who are running well, too. More than anything on the field, it’s what he does for our team. He brings enthusiasm. He elevates everybody,” Michaeles said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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