Records are kept in order to be broken. Sometimes those new milestones are set by the unlikeliest of heroes, while other times by those who outwork, out-gut and out-will their competitors etch their names in the books.
Landry Songer falls into the latter.
The Midlothian Panther fullback became the most prolific single-game rusher over the last decade, if not all-time, with his 231-yard and five-touchdown performance two weeks ago against the Red Oak Hawks at Midlothian ISD Multipurpose Stadium.
Though Midlothian head football coach Doug Wendel could only confirm the records posted in the Panther locker room are accurate for the last 10 seasons, it is hard to fathom too many former ball carriers reaching either plateau. Songer broke the previous Panther single-game highs of 228 yards and four touchdowns in the 34-20 win Nov. 3 over visiting Red Oak.
"It was a heck of a lot of fun,” Songer said. “I had a weird calming sense during the game and just continued picturing me doing my job and what I needed to do to help our team win. When our quarterback, Austen [Thomas], left the game I knew somebody had to step up. It was a whole lot of fun to perform good for all of my family and friends there for our senior night. I just wanted to make them proud."
Songer nearly outrushed the entire Red Oak offense on the evening, carrying the football 29 times for 231 yards to the 240 yards on 26 carries for the Hawks.
However, he was quick to point out the strong play of the offensive line, which included guard Dwayne Johnson. Songer thought Johnson deserved his third “boomstick” award of the season after he pulled around and "absolutely murdered their defensive end" on a couple of occasions.
"He was a big factor. We also had some younger guys step up after our starting right tackle Chris Dickert tore some ligaments in his foot, which was a big hit for us. Those younger guys stepped in and really got the job done opening gaps."
Wendel said the coaching staff as a whole felt early on in the ballgame Songer was running “with a vengeance” against a solid defensive front seven.
“I don’t pay too much attention to the way someone is running during a game, but you could tell early on that he was running with a special passion,” Wendel added. “He kept picking up yards after contact and not going down. You could tell on the first series, by the way he was hitting the hole, that he was probably going to have a big night.”
Even still, Songer admitted he “had no idea” the records had been broken “until somebody after the game mentioned it and they asked me how I felt. I told them I was just glad that we had won. I had no idea that those were any type of numbers for that."
It is the same team-first attitude that will continue to separate Songer from, frankly, civilians as he begins the next chapter of his playing career and life.
AT EASE, SOLDIER
With his career as a Midlothian Panther now over after a come-from-behind 36-35 win last Friday against Lancaster, the next time Songer steps onto a football field will be as a Black Knight on the campus of Army West Point in New York. The decision was not necessarily an easy one, either. He will also not be attending alone.
“Every time I felt confident about it (the decision) my parents would tell me to keep praying about it,” said Songer, as he also recalled several family friends calling him to pass along contact information for someone who had already attended West Point. After speaking with one of those alums, Songer said the gentleman said, “It sounds like you have already made your decision.”
And he had.
The deal sweetened a few weeks later when former Midlothian Panther quarterback Jerreth Sterns ultimately chose to rejoin Songer in the backfield at Army.
Songer explained there is “a really special bond” between quarterback and fullback in the Panther offensive scheme, which is the same flexbone-style offense ran by the Black Knights. That bond remained even after Sterns transferred to neighboring Waxahachie for his senior season.
Shortly after the move, Songer learned the Army recruiter was looking to land Sterns, too.
“I thought it was really cool and after we had both been offered I continued to check up on him to see where he was at in his decision,” Songer recalled. “After I finally committed, I knew I wanted to have that special connection again in the same offense so I told him that I would pray for his guidance in the decision and that I would add him to my prayer list.”
No long after, Sterns gave his verbal commitment to join his former backfield running mate.
“He is a leader in the locker room. He is a leader in our school. He is a leader in our community, and everybody is just super thrilled with the type of person he has turned out to be,” said Wendel as Songer sat across the head coaches’ desk.
He then added with a sly grin and glance to the fullback, “Obviously, Army vetted him pretty well, so if he is good enough for Army then he is good enough for us. He’s a keeper.”
ALWAYS A PANTHER
The road to 138 carries for 741 yards and team-high 12 touchdowns during his senior season was not an easy one for Songer. After adding 20 pounds and reshaping his body during the offseason, a fractured talus — the bone in the lower portion of the ankle joint — sideline the fullback for the first three and a half games of the year.
In his return to the starting lineup during a week five home game against Mansfield Timberview, Songer helped lead the Panthers to an improbable 21-point comeback win by scoring the games final three touchdowns. The last score came after the Panthers had forced overtime.
He finished the 29-22 win over the Wolves with 28 carries for 112 yards.
But even those numbers weren’t as satisfying as seeing the pure elation coming from his teammates and, more importantly, the coaching staff.
"Seeing it all come together as it did with our offense start to get it after the defense made so many turnovers — because they were the ones who got the ball rolling — it was nice to be able to experience that with our coaches,” Songer said. “One of the things that I remember saying after the game is that 'you eat with those you starve with.' And then I remember saying, 'We ate tonight.' It was so cool to enjoy the victory and everything coming together between our coaches and our brothers."
"[...] Especially for those coaches. They just put in so many hours I know that they even come up here on Sundays and literally every day of the week and get hardly any sleep. They always make a good plan for us, so it was really cool to see their hard work pay off."
As he continued to reflect on his senior season, Songer agreed it was a passion for the game that helped guide him through high school. The same love for his teammates and coaches helped ease the rehab. And it is the same pride in the Midlothian community that has prepared Songer to serve his country after his playing days in West Point.
But for those future Panthers, like his 7th-grade brother, Gabe, Songer encourages them to “keep the brotherhood,” hold each other accountable and always put in the extra work.
“I feel like that was a major difference between this year and last year. I felt like this year everyone was just so much closer together and just loves each other,” Songer said. “[…] Accountability is big, and that is in school, out of school and on the field. Extra work always shows, too. There is no substitute for extra work. In the caliber of the district we play in, you have to go above and beyond.”
He added, “I have no doubt that the younger guys will continue what’s been started.”