LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - For the past three years, Michael Terrell has served as a human battering ram for the Laurel High School football team, pounding his way through opposing defenses for yards and touchdowns.
This fall, the Terrell will have even more of an opportunity to lower the boom.
The 5-foot-10, 217-pound senior will play on both sides of the ball this season, after the coaching staff shifted him to linebacker this past spring.
"You know, I think I'm falling in love with defense right now," Terrell said. "I like delivering the blow rather than taking it.
"I know my coaches think I can do it. That's why they asked me to. I feel like I can take on that responsibility for the team."
Laurel coach Todd Breland knew Terrell had the toughness to mix things up in the middle.
In the 2016 Class 5A state championship game against West Point High School, Terrell suffered a separated shoulder and broken ankle bone.
"And he continued to try and play," Breland said. "There's a certain degree of toughness in that kid."
Terrell, who led all running backs with 861 yards rushing and led all Golden Tornadoes with 14 rushing touchdowns as a sophomore in 2016, did not get back on the field until midway through the 2017 season.
By then, junior transfer Zias Perryman, who was on his way to a team-best 1,329 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns, had established his bona fides. Terrell did return, and rushed for 327 yards and four touchdowns, as he helped Laurel to a 9-5 record and a run to the South State championship game.
Now, he'll take his talents and physicality to the other side of the line of scrimmage to help shore up the defense.
"I've just got to make sure that I'm in shape to help out my team, so I can play both ways," Terrell said. "It's really exciting knowing I have all my guys back and I'm back healthy."
Breland said he was expecting big things from Terrell.
"Michael has been a starter for us since the ninth grade, and going into his senior year, he's just done so much for this program," Breland said. "He's a tremendous football player, a great leader.
"He loves football, everything about it. He loves practice, loves film, and loves playing the games. He's vocal. He's a great leader for this team. There're great things in store for him in the future. He'll play somewhere next year."
But next year can wait. Both Terrell and Breland like what they have seen of the Golden Tornadoes.
"There's no telling what we can do," Terrell said. "Ever since we started working in the spring, we break it down as "32," which is like 32 miles to Hattiesburg, where the state championship is this year. I'm real confident that we can win it this year."
Breland said that's the attitude that he, his staff and his players have taken every year in his seven seasons at the helm.
"The sky's the limit," Breland said. "The expectations are high and that's the way we want it here. We embrace that. We approach each day and try to win that day. We do things that put us under high pressure Monday through Thursday to try and make Fridays easier because it is tough.
"(Class) 5A is wide open. You've got your normal (tough) teams in the South, your Hattiesburgs, your Picayunes, Brookhaven, West Jones, and there're others. Then, there're a bunch of good teams in the North, too.
"But we hope our (non-regional) schedule (Jackson Callaway, Hattiesburg, Oak Grove, Petal) will help prepare us for what's coming down the road."