Peyton Emberton exemplifies what being a great teammate is all about.
Although the talented Whiteland High senior has gotten his share of attention for his actions on the football field, he is more concerned about making sure his gridiron brothers realize he is always there for them.
"I feel as my greatest strength for being a teammate is able to have any of my teammates back," explained Emberton. "If they're going through something, I wanna make sure I'm right there to help them through football or any outside occurrences, and I feel they would do the same for me.
"Also, I feel like they can depend on me for many different things, such as getting them to practice when they don't have a ride or just needing someone to talk or listen to. This goes for even the underclassman who've I have become friends with over the years."
In addition to being a leader off the field, the 5-foot-7, 177-pound running back has proven to be a force on the playing surface as well with 200 carries for a team-high 1,297 yards with 11 touchdowns.
His overall dedication paid dividends last Friday (November 18) in a 21-7 win against Castle when he ran 20 times for 104 yards to help the Warriors capture their first semistate title.
Emberton and company now hope to come away with the ultimate prize on Saturday, November 26 when No. 2 Whiteland (12-1) takes on No. 9 Valparaiso (13-0) for the Class 5A state championship at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Since he started running around in kindergarten with Whiteland's little league, Emberton has envisioned himself getting the chance to compete on the big stage.
"Going back to fall camp, my goal personally was to beat my last year stats, and of course, I wanted to go to the (state) championship, especially since I'm a senior," explained Emberton, who had 177 carries for 976 yards with eight scores in 2021. "I would say our team goal was to be able to play our best in the tournament and well, we've reached the moment to really show what we've been trying to accomplish all year."
He credits several people for his all-around maturation.
"My parents have done so much for me as well as (San Francisco 49ers' running back) Christian McCaffrey, who I have loved watching since he played in college (at Stanford)," said Emberton. "Coach (Darrin) Fisher and the rest of the coaches also mean so much to me especially since they've been around me when I was very young,
"Coach Fisher has been a great coach and has been very inspirational to me and has taught me many life lessons, Coaches like Coach John Preston (defensive coordinator) and Coach Gunnar Ranard (defensive backs), who weren't there as much when I was younger, but believed in me when I first reached high school, also mean a lot."
Fisher also has admiration for his talented performer.
"Peyton Emberton is first and foremost a great teammate, Fisher said. "He is a consistent, dependable performer each and every day and embodies our '1-0 Today' philosophy."
One of the teammates Emberton has admired over the years has been fellow senior linebacker Brady Stanifer, who has racked up 115 tackles with nine for loss and three fumble recoveries.
"In my opinion, I feel that Brady is playing the best football he can play right now," Emberton said. "He's a great leader on the field and off. I consider him a player-coach, because when he's on the field he can really pick out other teams' formations and help our defense succeed. I'm happy he's on our side."
Although he is uncertain about which college to attend next fall, he definitely wants his athletic career to continue.
"My future plan after high school is to 100 percent play college football," Emberton said. "I love the sport too much not to, as well study sports management, when I reach college next year.
Before thinking about his future, though, he wants to relish the present.
"When the moment comes on Saturday, I will embrace every second and really just take it all in because it is my last game in high school," said Emberton about running through the tunnel at Lucas Oil Stadium. "I will just love it. The community in the stands and everything involved. I feel like it will be a very emotional day for everyone involved."