Edwardsville quarterback Kendall Abdur-Rahman enjoys playing a game of “catch me if you can.”
Abdur-Rahman, a 6-foot-1, 182-pound junior, covers 40 yards in 4.6 seconds. But it’s not only straight-ahead speed that makes him dangerous. His sharp cuts fool defenders and his ability to weave through congestion gets him into the open field.
“It’s crazy — and he’s running strong,” seventh-year Tigers coach Matt Martin said Friday, recalling a play against Collinsville when Abdur-Rahman fumbled the snap, recovered it and raced through traffic en route to a 15-yard touchdown. “He broke some arm tackles on that one. Last year, he wouldn’t have been able to do that.
“He’s just so much stronger now, so much more confident. I’ve been on the other side of that, when you’ve got a kid that just makes plays. Now with Kendall, he’s probably one of the first kids in a long time where you don’t have to be perfect on your blocking. He can make people miss and (execute) big plays.”
The run against Collinsville was one of Abdur-Rahman’s three rushing touchdowns in the Tigers’ 70-0 victory. He also passed for two scores.
“It was a low snap. It went right through my legs,” Abdur-Rahman said of his video-game run after the mishap. “As I was picking it up, I’m trying to look around and see who’s (there). There was just a wide-open hole.”
Abdur-Rahman has 112 carries for 1,045 yards and 19 touchdowns for the Tigers (6-3), who will play at Huntley (8-1) at 7 p.m. Friday in a first-round game of the Class 8A playoffs. After dropping its first three games, Edwardsville has won six in a row.
If the Tigers are able to make an extended postseason run, Abdur-Rahman will probably be in the middle of the action.
“We’re pretty confident,” Abdur-Rahman said. “We’ve come a long way from the beginning of the season. We’ve gotten better every week. Like coach Martin told us, ‘If I was the other team, and I was playing the Tigers, I would be pretty worried right now.’ We’re not going to back down from anybody.”
Abdur-Rahman’s best game was Oct. 13 at Belleville West, when he rushed for five touchdowns and ran for one in the Tigers’ 45-14 victory. He finished with 16 carries for 149 yards as Edwardsville became playoff-eligible.
Maroons coach Cameron Pettus lauded Abdur-Rahman after the game.
“With a quarterback like that, you don’t want him to have the ball at all,” Pettus said. “We’re a pretty fast defense, but he’s at a different level. He’s different than anybody else on that field. Players like that, they’re men amongst boys. That’s where that saying comes from with guys like that.”
Abdur-Rahman said his favorite players are Louisville quarterback and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and former Clemson and current Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Both love to use their legs to torment opponents.
“They’re definitely big role models for me,” Abdur-Rahman said. “I look up to them. I watch them. I try to play my game like them.”
Abdur-Rahman is working to become a bigger threat in the passing game. Edwardsville’s offense is predicated on the run, but Abdur-Rahman believes he is a capable passer despite being just 29 of 64 for 436 yards and six TDs. He has thrown just one interception.
“I’ve definitely gotten more confident passing the ball,” Abdur-Rahman said. “I’ve heard people say, ‘He can’t throw. He can only run. Blah-blah-blah.’ I’ve been working at it, and obviously I can throw, and I’ve got receivers to throw the ball to. I knew all along I wasn’t one-dimensional. I hated hearing that.”
Abdur-Rahman said offensive coordinator Doug Heinz has helped him become a more diverse quarterback. It’s an ongoing process.
“In practice, working with coach Heinz has got me right,” Abdur-Rahman said. “Huge thanks to him. Without him, I would not be this far.”
Abdur-Rahman, who played free safety last year, said he didn’t pass much early in the season because “the confidence wasn’t there.”
“Once you get going, keep practicing and get close with your receivers ... We’ve all come together,” said Abdur-Rahman, whose favorite target has been junior Lavontas Hairston (10 catches, 129 yards, four TDs). “I feel like our bond has grown. That boosts all our confidence, not just mine.”
Abdur-Rahman said the Tigers divided their season into thirds. They were 0-3 after three games, 3-3 after six and 6-3 after nine.
“Now we’ve got the playoffs,” he said. “We’ve got to finish it out.”