Editor’s note: This is another installment of Extra Points, a weekly series of stories that look at high school football awayfrom the Friday night spotlight.
ROSE HILL — The smile on LaQua Mayes’ face is roughly equivalent to the exclamation points he often uses at the end of text messages.
He laughs a little when asked about his texting — at least 600 a day. He'd much rather text, he said, than talk on the phone — he doesn’t like his high voice on the phone.
An affinity for talking has gotten the Rose Hill senior running back into trouble.
"You know how you get a progress report midway through the first nine weeks?" Mayes asked. "My whole life, it's been, 'Enjoyable to have in class, but very talkative.’æ”
Mayes is completely serious, though, when it comes to football. He was an All-Metro selection in 2009, when he had 2,038 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.
As he readied for Friday's game against Collegiate, the 5-foot-8, 170-pounder didn't crack a smile. Not from the time he came onto the field to catch passes and punts 90 minutes before kickoff, to the time he was the last Rocket trotting out of the locker room after putting on his pads under his No. 1 jersey.
"On Friday, it's a totally different day for me," Mayes said. "Between 4 and 9 o'clock, you'll see a different LaQua. I'm very focused. You can ask my friends. They try to talk to me, I try to stay to myself. I get in my zone. There's been people who have been mad at me who thought I'm rude and mad at them. But I'm in my zone."
Rose Hill coach Greg Slade said Mayes has a switch that he successfully flips.
"He can turn it on when he needs to," Slade said.
Mayes' smile was tougher to come by two years ago. Not only was he unhappy while playing football at Goddard — he didn't feel he was given a chance as a sophomore — his parents were divorcing.
"It affected me," Mayes said. "Me and my mom's relationship kind of dropped off. It affected me more emotionally and I'd get mad for no reason."
Mayes and his father moved to Rose Hill before his junior season because they thought it would be a better fit. He's worked through his feelings about the divorce, and both parents are involved in his life.
"God has his way of doing everything, though, and it probably was for the better," Mayes said. "They're still close. They talk every day. It's not like they hate each other. I still see my mom all the time. I still talk to her all the time."
Transferring midway through high school could be difficult, but Mayes’ personality eased the process. He builds relationships with ease.
He's one of several Rose Hill players who sits outside the locker room and talks to younger players as they pass by. It's his way of ensuring the Rockets are a family, not just football players.
Mayes enjoys conversations. He had no problem setting aside that descriptive writing essay due this week for a college course he's taking at Butler, to have a 15-minute chat. Mayes, who has a 3.7 GPA, takes three college courses.
His favorite topics range from the Dallas Cowboys to how he can make his team better. He had 162 rushing yards in the season opener, but that wasn't enough.
Rose Hill lost to Buhler by 25 points, and Mayes was quick to note his fumble inside the 10.
Mayes is always a threat with the football, Slade said.
"I talk to our (offensive) line about it — here's a kid who's not a pounder, but if you get him to the next level (of the defense), he can do some special things with the ball," Slade said.
Mayes is speedy, sees the whole field well and can make quick cuts.
Just as too much talking has gotten Mayes into trouble at times, so have his decisions to cut too often.
"If there's an open hole, I can cut into the other hole," Mayes said. "Sometimes it hurts, though because I should have used my speed.
"I had the guy beat (at Buhler), and I cut back. If I would have kept going, it would have been a touchdown."
Mayes’ thinking pleases Slade.
"There are times where we talk to him about making one cut and hitting the jets," Slade said. "But for him to say that, it's even better than me telling him that."