When talking about the great running backs from the area over the last 25 years, observers raved about Rick Meyer's quickness, Bobby Carlson's cutting, Matt Zupke's toughness and David Blom's agility.
Add Joel Bauman to the list.
The Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg junior running back broke Carlson's area single-season rushing mark last week against Springfield in the Class A state semifinals.
Bauman, a 6-2 189-pound workhorse, now has 2,652 yards this season.
Carlson, also from KMS, had 2,541 yards in 1999 when the Fighting Saints reached the state tournament. Zupke ran for 2,485 yards for BOLD in 2002, Blom had 2.417 yards in 2001 for Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, and Meyer had 2,235 yards for Granite Falls in 1987.
Bauman has played in 13 games to date. Meyer and Blom played in 14 games each when they had their stellar seasons, while Zupke and Carlson each played in 12 games.
"He's a great back," said KMS head coach James Cortez, when asked about Bauman. "He works hard. He's really matured this year and has improved a lot. The thing everyone forgets is he is still only a junior. He's going to keep getting better."
Bauman will lead the Fighting Saints against Royalton at 1 p.m. today at the Metrodome for the Class A state title at the Metrodome.
Bauman isn't built like a running back who could withstand 358 carries in a season, an average of 28 carries per game so far. While he has a muscular upper body, his legs are willowy.
"I get crap for that all the time from my friends and teammates," laughed Bauman. "My teammates call me broomstick legs and things like that."
Bauman does no conventional weightlighting. Instead, he uses things found around the family farm in almost a Rocky Balboa-type workout. He hits a tractor tire with a sledgehammer, flips a combine tire over and over and does Hindu pushups, a martial arts form of pushup that works the entire body and builds strength and stamina more quickly.
"I went on the internet to see what kind of training I wanted to do," explained Bauman. "I wanted to build my upper body for Greco-Roman wrestling. I came across some things that (former New York Giants running back) Tiki Barber did and I really liked the way they've worked for me."
Two years ago when Bauman was competing in the national Greco-Roman wrestling tournament I Fargo, N.D., some of the coaches and wrestlers asked him about his training methods. When he mentioned some of the unconventional ways he worked out, they laughed at him.
But after Bauman went out and won the 171-pound national crown, the laughter quickly dissipated.
Bauman also placed third in the Class A state wrestling tournament last winter at 189 pounds for KMS.
"I think my workouts have really helped me for football, too," said Bauman. "My legs aren't as big as a lot of good running backs, but they're strong. I wanted to get stronger, I didn't want to bulk up."
It's hard to argue with the results. In just five postseason games, Bauman has rushed for 1,385 yards. That's more than all but three running backs in the area had for the entire season.
"The thing that works for me is I play angry," Bauman said. "I might not even be mad at anything or anyone. But I get myself all upset and I play a lot better. I like to hit someone when I'm running. That really gets me pumped up."
Cortez and the KMS coaching staff recognize how to stoke Bauman's engine.
"We will purposely call a play in which Joel will have to run near the other team's bench," Cortez laughed. "If he gets tackled over there, the other team's fans and players usually will say something and get on him a little bit. He might not even hear what they are saying, but he comes back to the huddle and he's all fired up."
Bauman's speed is his biggest ally, but he can also deliver a punishing hit on a defender. And if he breaks a tackle, it usually ends up being a big gain."
Bauman also credits his teammates for the success he's had in his career.
"You can't do it alone," he said. "Somebody has to block for me and my teammates do a great job."
When KMS calls a play and breaks the huddle, Bauman immediately peruses over the opposing team's defense.
"I tell myself this is a war and they are all out to get me," he said. "That usually gets me going, too. I always want to hit them harder than they hit me."
Often, though, it's hard to hit what you can't catch. A sprinter on the Benson/KMS track team, Bauman often turns on the after-burners once he finds a crack in the enemy's wall.
"Sometimes if I only have one man to beat, I'll try to run through him instead of trying to fake him out," said Bauman. "Football is all about contact and I love that part of the game."
He has scored 29 touchdowns this season for the Fighting Saints. He currently has 5,812 yards rushing in his career and needs 1,529 yards to break the state's all-time career rushing mark of 7,341 set by Tyler Evans of McLeod West in 2001.
'It's definitely a big goal of mine for next season," the personable Bauman said. "I want to be the best I can be."
For now, though, statistics matter little to him. He was unaware he had broken the school record until someone pointed it out to him recently.
"The only thing I care about right now is proving that KMS is the best team in our class this year," he remarked.
A two-time All-Area selection, Bauman has been drawing the attention of Division I programs for both football and wrestling.
Bauman's interest don't lie solely with sports. He's also musically-gifted. He produces his own music in a makeshift studio in his room. He plays the piano. And he's the lead vocalist in a band he and five of his offensive linemen have recently put together.
"We really haven't played anywhere yet," he. "We're working on getting some places to play in Willmar sometime. We haven't even picked out a name for the band yet."
If everything goes well on Friday, they might be able to call themselves "The Champions".