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Mays welcomes challenge to lead



Published: Fri, April 5, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Gateway Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2001 hopes to lead YSU to a league title and playoff berth.

By PETE MOLLICA

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

YOUNGSTOWN -- In just two seasons, P.J. Mays has etched his name throughout the Youngstown State football record book.

The 5-foot-9, 206-pound senior tailback is a Youngstown native, having played his high school football at East, where he was a member of the final graduating class before the school was closed.

He accepted a football scholarship to the University of Cincinnati, and after one season transferred to YSU where he has became a standout.

Last season, Mays rushed for 1,446 yards, setting a YSU regular-season record. He had seven games with more than 100 yards rushing, and three of over 200 yards, becoming only the second player to accomplish that. Paris Wicks was the other, his three 200-yard games coming over two seasons.

Mays also scored 21 touchdowns, the third-best total in Division I-AA.

Eyes title, playoffs: The only thing that Mays would like to rectify this season is the fact that the Penguins didn't win the Gateway Conference, and then were left out of the I-AA playoffs.

He was named the Gateway Conference Offensive Player of the Year, first-team All-Gateway Conference and honorable mention All-American.

Mays will be a marked man by every opposing defense this season, but it's a challenge that he welcomes.

"Each year you want to step up to meet the challenges that await you on the field," Mays said. "But my main goal is to be a complete team player and do whatever it takes to help this team win games, even if it means stepping out of the spotlight into another role."

Experimentation: This spring, the Penguins coaches have experimented with some different offensive sets, including having Mays lined up at flanker.

"We've been tinkering with a lot of different things, just trying to find out what's best for this team and what works out there," Mays said.

"My goals are the same as last year," he added. "That is to lead the conference in rushing and to lead the team to the Gateway Conference title and a national championship."

Mays found that, as a senior, his role has changed considerably.

"As a senior you have to be a team leader," he said. "This year, we don't have Jeff [Ryan] there, so myself, Andy DeNiro, John Schumacher and Dennis Dlugosz have to be the ones to step up and lead the offense on and off the field."

Engaged: Once spring practice has concluded, Mays will devote his time to another big step in his life. He'll be getting married on July 6. His fianc & eacute; is Laura Barricklow, and the two became engaged last year during the season.

Thursday, the Penguins worked out with another 50 percent contact session and also held a light scrimmage.

They were to take today off and return to action Saturday at 9:30 a.m., with the second jersey scrimmage at Stambaugh Stadium. The defense won the initial jersey scrimmage a week ago, 53-41, to possess the red practice jerseys.

Next week, the Penguins will practice on Monday and Thursday with the Red and White Game Friday at 7 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.

mollica@vindy.com




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