It’s a number which has entered the mind of Fairmont State’s Daniel Monroe countless times over the course of the last 10 months.
And for good reason.
Monroe, you see, ended his inaugural year in a Falcon uniform with 999 yards rushing — just one shy of the benchmark 1,000-yard season most running backs covet.
A late-season sprained arch injury in his foot derailed an otherwise impressive first year for Monroe, who came to Fairmont last summer highly touted as a redshirt freshman transfer from Florida State University. He led the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in rushing and scoring for much of the season before leaving in the first half of a 20-7 loss to Concord University in week nine with the injury.
He missed the Falcons’ week 10 victory over West Virginia State, but returned to play in the final game of the year against Shepherd more as a blocker than anything else to help pick up the Rams’ hard-charging defensive ends.
Monroe, playing virtually on one leg, carried the football just eight times against the Rams and finished with a mere five rushing yards. Ironically, he reached the 1,000-yard mark on his sixth carry, but had no gain on his seventh carry and suffered a loss of one yard on his final attempt of the year to finish with 999 yards.
“There’s no doubt I’ve spent time thinking about that a lot the last several months. What was really so disappointing to me is it basically was somewhat out of my control because of the injury,” said Monroe, one of the smartest and most likable Falcons.
“Unfortunately, injuries come with the territory in football, and you have to deal with them to the best of your abilities.
“I finished with 999 yards. It is what it is. I’ve had to eat that for an entire off season. Believe me, I’ve been joked about and cracked on by the guys. They all say, ‘You couldn’t just have fallen forward for one more yard?’ I didn’t, but I can tell you this. That’s definitely been a motivator for me this season. I’m trying to prepare myself better and practice smarter. I’m doing as much as I can with coach (John) Marano (FSU’s strength and conditioning coach) and Bob Cable (the Falcons’ trainer) so I can fine tune things and try to stay away from the nagging injuries which can hamper a player during the season.”
Monroe still finished second in the WVIAC and 25th in the nation in NCAA Division II in rushing with an average of 99.9 yards per outing. He was named second-team all-league and was the conference’s Offensive Freshman of the Year.
“I had a great experience here during my first season in Fairmont both on and off the field,” said Monroe. “Before I even came up here, I told the coaching staff here I don’t have to be the star player and I don’t want to be the star player. I just want to go somewhere where I’ll get a fair shot at earning a starting position. I didn’t want to be handed anything. I wanted to earn it, and I think I did that.
“My whole goal the first season was to stay humble, play within myself and help this team be successful. I’m a team guy. Always have been, always will be. My dad instilled that in me a long time ago, and I’ve never forgotten it.”
Monroe’s claims about being a team player were clearly evidenced by the fact that he was one of the Falcons’ best blockers out of the backfield last season, paving the way for other backs and picking up would-be blitzers on a number of occasions to protect his quarterback.
“My coach at Florida State, coach (Eddie) Gran, was real big on blocking and protecting the quarterback,” said Monroe. “I learned a lot from him. When I came here, it was the same thing under coach (J.L.) Abbott. He really helped me fine-tune my blocking, and it’s been the same thing this year with coach (Ryan) Dumont, who has taken over the running backs.”
Monroe also displayed true sportsmanship when he was injured last fall and was the biggest cheerleader on the sidelines for his backup Damon Waters, who rushed for 134 yards in three touchdowns in the victory over West Virginia State.
Waters, unfortunately, had his FSU career cut short this spring with two years remaining when he suffered his sixth concussion.
“Damon is a player I’m really going to miss because I think in a lot of ways he was kind of irreplaceable for us,” said Monroe, who was a bit emotional about the end of his friend’s playing career. “He’s truly a great person and a great football player.
“Fortunately he has a lot of good things going for him. What I respect most about him is he always put school first. He wants to be a corporate lawyer, which I think is phenomenal. He just got hired part time at the bank, Mon Valley Bank, that I work at part time, so we stay in touch. He works in accounting and I work in the credit and financing department. I just think it’s sad the game had to end prematurely for him.”
Off the field, Monroe is a standout in the classroom as well, garnering a 3.65 grade-point average in his first year at FSU as an accounting and finance major.
“To be honest, that was a little disappointing for me,” said Monroe. “I expect better from myself in school, but considering all I had going on and the fact that I was carrying the maximum amount of hours, I’ll take it. At the end of the day I still came out with an ‘A.’”
As noted, Monroe’s teammates and coaches think highly of the youngster from Miami.
“Daniel is the complete package,” said FSU running backs coach Ryan Dumont. “He’s got size and speed, and he’s a great blocker which, in my opinion, sets him apart from the rest. He’s also a very coachable kid. He’s not a big-timer at all. He’s really ground and down to earth. If we ask him to do something he’ll do it, no questions asked.
“Off the field, he’s pretty special too. He’s an extremely intelligent young man who genuinely cares a lot about school. I really can’t say enough good things about him.”
Another interesting characteristic of Monroe is that he is an avid supporter of his fellow student-athletes at Fairmont State. Last year he was present at a number of men’s and women’s basketball games, volleyball matches and even the Falcons’ acrobatics and tumbling team’s competitions.
“That’s the school environment, and you want to support your fellow athletes,” he said. “My sister was a competitive cheerleader, so I have an interest in that, and our basketball players are one of the most supportive groups on campus, so I definitely try to support them whenever I can. It’s all reciprocal. They support us, and I want to support them. Plus, I love athletics. My goal this year is to try to make some softball games.”
Anyone who pays to watch Monroe play his game will usually find his efforts are worth the price of admission.
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