Flemings an eager pupil for new MC running backs coach Salary
MICHIGAN CITY -- When Michigan City brought on Charles Salary as its running backs coach, no one was happier than Jonathon Flemings.
"I've known Charles since eighth grade," Flemings said. "We got to the same trainer (Ron Gaston at Temple Total Fitness). He played at the college level. He knows what to do, how to do it, what to be looking for."
The former La Porte star, who led the Slicers to the 2014 Class 5A state finals and the NAIA Player of the Year for national runner-up Marian University last year, has found a willing pupil in Flemings, who short, but stout stature is reminiscent of Salary's.
"He shares some qualities that remind me of myself at the high school level," Salary said. "Working with Flemings has been a great privilege considering this is my first year coaching. I had the opportunity to train with him over the past couple summers, and I realized that his work ethic was tremendous. He pushes himself to be one of the best, and he is always finding new ways to improve his game."
While Flemings can only dream of having the college experience that his mentor had, he hopes Salary's tutelage can help take him to the next level
"It's my last year to show what I can do," Flemings said. "I want (college) coaches to know I've been working. I know I had a decent (junior) season, but I wasn't satisfied. I felt like I was too heavy. I needed to be able to move a little better, be more explosive. My grandfather has always kept me into staying in shape in the off-season. I just did more of it. I changed my diet a little. I went to my personal trainer. I went to the beach to run the sand dunes to keep my legs strong. I shed some weight, I got faster, stronger. I can see my cut a lot faster, get out of cuts faster.
After tipping the Toledo at 190 as a junior, Flemings came back at 175 this season, despite the down time of the COVID-19 quarantine.
"He pushes himself to be one of the best, and he is always finding new ways to improve his game," Salary said. "One thing that stands out to me about Flemings is his versatility. He has the ability to run the ball inside and out, catch the ball out the backfield, split out at receiver, and even punt. He has the vision, the cutting ability, and enough speed to get past the second level that makes him one of the premiere backs in this region."
Part of a backfield that has crazy speed and athleticism in slots Omarion Hatch and Jaden Hart and receivers Kaydarious Jones and Esau Haynes, Flemings is certainly kept on his toes as far as earning his touches. Not that he minds.
"(Coach Phil Mason)'s trying to (spread) it around so we just have to be patient for our time to get the ball and do what we can do," Flemings said. "He likes whoever's hot at the moment. That's who's getting the ball until he feels like he has to move it around a little more. I feel like that's a good method to go. Coming back this year, I knew we were going to have a couple running backs. I just have to do my job, do my best, go 100 percent every play. I'm gonna compete with my guys and my guys are gonna compete with me. We're all just brothers. It brings out the best in all of us. We all want to make each other better because we all want to win. We don't like losing. We all push each other. It's a sport, whoever's the best one is going to start."
Flemings prides himself on his durability as well as the versatility that Salary mentioned, and credits his coach for his improvements.
"Coach (Mason) knows he can give me the ball time after time," Flemings said. "I can still break one out though. I can still run in the flats as a check-down. Coach knows he can put me in the slot, he knows I can catch, make plays in space. We just have so many receivers, I don't have to. (Salary) has helped me a lot with my vision, especially being patient behind the line, to stop, let blocks develop, and then go, ball security. It's just going hard every day."
Salary sees plenty of potential for Flemings to take his talents to the college game.
"Not only is Buster a great player, but he is a great leader, smart, coachable, and a great example for his teammates," Salary said. "The future for this young man is bright and I am excited to see what he achieves in the next few years."
In the meantime, Flemings wants to see what the Wolves can do over the balance of the season.
"Last year was a difficult season," he said. "We want to get back to where we were, winning sectionals, regionals, getting back to semistate. That's my goal. It's what I'm going to push my brothers to do. Our chemistry is a whole lot better. We bring each other up on the field."
Beyond Salary, Flemings would be remiss in not expressing his deep appreciation to his grandparents, Tommy and Jenny Thomas, with whom he lives.
"My grandpa has been with me the whole ride. He's been there since I started football, the one getting me together, teaching me everything, letting me know what to do, how to do it," Flemings said. "He's been my father figure. Our bond is a lot closer than me and my father."
Michigan City's Jonathon Flemings eludes Zach Purnell of La Porte in last year's regular-season game. The Wolves running back is now learning under the tutelage of former Slicers great Charles Salary, who is in his first year with the team as its running back coach.
(Photr by Robb Quinn)