HOUSTON -- Donald Catalon is running through drills on a Wednesday morning so humid it'll fog your sunglasses. He doesn’t seem to mind.
The Houston Eisenhower running back might not look like much at first. At 5-foot-10 and 193 pounds, he’s smaller than the 2014 in-state backs who get more hype.
But there’s a reason Texas wanted this kid.
Catalon has the stature of a speed back. Truthfully, he’s a lot more than that.
“If I’ve got to pound it in, I can,” he said. “Or I can make you miss. I can beat you with my speed.”
On this mid-August day, he’s not asked to do much. This is a relatively light practice. Just helmets and T-shirts. But the kid they call "Duke" zips around like it matters, always the first in line for any drill.
The future Longhorn doesn’t need pads to prove his point. Even in these early-morning drills, Catalon shows he’s every bit the rusher that his sophomore year film suggests.
He’s the kind of back who, on one play, brushes off tackles on a dive up the middle and emerges undaunted for a long dash. The next, he’s dancing and juking around a mob of defenders. Then he’s catching a lob pass and cutting upfield.
“He really does have the entire package,” Eisenhower coach Dre Thompson said. “He’s legit. I always compare him to Marshall Faulk because of the versatility he gives us. He’s not just a running back. He can do so much for us.”
He’s not like the three running backs Texas will hang its hat on this season. Catalon isn’t like any back on the roster, really. The do-everything back could end up being an explosive complement to the Longhorns’ power-packed stable.
What has always impressed Thompson most is Catalon’s demeanor. He got called up to Ike’s varsity team as a freshman. He didn’t get cocky that year, and he hasn’t ever since.
Not even when Texas came calling in early August to offer a scholarship. He gave his pledge a day later. No news conference or big announcement necessary.
These days, Catalon seems downright unfazed by being committed to Texas.
“I mean, it’s a good feeling,” he said. “But I’m just focusing on what I’m doing right here. Me and my teammates are trying to get to state. That’s what I’m focused on right now. It’s nice to have that out of the way so I can focus.
“I don’t want to get big-headed, that’s all. That’s why I didn’t make it a big deal.”
He won over Texas’ coaches in typical Catalon fashion by going full-speed on each and every drill at UT’s camp on June 10. He had a hip injury but still ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash. Even then, he didn’t say much.
His actions spoke louder a few days later, though that wasn’t Catalon’s intention.
Oklahoma was holding a satellite camp at Sugar Land Dulles High. Catalon came but didn’t compete so his hip could heal. He sat in the bleachers.
His coach’s phone started buzzing almost immediately.
“I’m getting calls like, ‘Man, your back is out here with a Texas shirt on,’” Thompson said. “I was like, 'Wow, what are you doing?' ”
Catalon was sporting his white Mack Brown Texas Football tee from camp. A coach told him to turn the shirt inside-out. He declined.
Thompson asked his running back if he was trying to make a statement that night. Catalon said no. He was just wearing a shirt, simple as that.
Less than two months later, the coach got a call from Texas’ coaching staff. They were ready to officially offer Catalon a scholarship.
“Right after that [Major] Applewhite texted me and said go ahead and let people know,” Thompson said. “He said, ‘We want the world to know Catalon is rolling with Texas.’ I showed him that. He smiled.”
Now Catalon is focused on rolling through his junior year. Thompson thinks he could rush for 1,000 yards and chip in another 1,000 all-purpose yards.
Catalon is thinking a bit bigger.
“I want 2,000 yards rushing and more touchdowns,” he said.
He doesn’t smile when he says that. Catalon is serious. So is his game.
Thompson has been trying to get him to open up more. Duke is simply a quiet kid, the coach says. Always has been. The recruiting process didn’t change that. His success at Eisenhower hasn’t, either. That -- and, on the field, much more -- is just what you get with Catalon.
“I don’t speak a lot,” he said. “I just play.”