If one had approached Isaiah Rameau with the discussion regarding the state of the running back in modern-day football just two years ago, the Chatsworth senior wouldn’t have related to the topic the way he does now.
“The running back is dying,” Rameau said. “That really hurts me. I love the position so much.”
It’s an adoration that’s grown from Sundays of watching and learning what his favorite professional stars do to excel and implementing their techniques into his game.
Rameau had played football in Pop Warner — lining up as a center and defensive lineman — but after he and his family moved to Los Angeles from Massachusetts it took him a few years to return to the sport. That is, until Chatsworth head coach Marvin Street proposed the idea of him playing running back.
Street was confident he’d succeed and Rameau was intrigued. What neither knew at the time was the level Rameau would reach — one that led Street to build his entire offense on running the football and inspired Rameau to turn his academics around.
Through four games this season, Rameau (5-foot-11, 195) has carried the ball 68 times for 1,085 yards — averaging 16 yards per carry — and 16 touchdowns.
He now has goals of playing Division I football and making the NFL someday.
— Chatsworth Charter Football (@Chatsworth_FB) August 19, 2023
Those stats may look inflated, but they’re far from a fluke. They’re a product of the process that began when Rameau decided to watch Chatsworth from the sideline during his sophomore year.
He trained with his teammates at practice and in the weight room. He studied his position to see how he could fit into the Chancellors’ scheme and ultimately fulfill his goal of playing college ball.
There was one problem with that final aspect: his grades weren’t nearly up to snuff.
“Once I saw that transcript, I was like ‘dude, you’ll never play college football unless you turn that around,’” Street told him. “He made that decision and he’s been very committed ever since. I just really hope he gets that opportunity.”
Rameau had the idea that his “grades wouldn’t matter during COVID,” his mom, Abena Afrane, said.
But when he realized they could mean the difference between playing Division I and not, he began to approach school like he does football now.
He adopted a mindset that his mom exemplified when she brought her family to Los Angeles, chasing a dream. A hair stylist for celebrities, Afrane followed a client out to Los Angeles. When that fell through, she had to rebuild her business while caring for her family.
Up until just before the COVID-19 lockdown, they stayed in shelters.
“I taught him, when you want something you have to chase it, you can’t half-ass it,” Afrane said. “He leaves the house at 7:30 a.m. and gets back at 9.”
He’d stay after school every day and even added classes on Saturday. When junior year arrived and Rameau joined Chatsworth’s team as an active player, Street didn’t fit him into the offense, rather, he constructed it to feature Rameau as a workhorse running back.
As a junior, he ran for 2,434 yards on 254 carries and this year he’s on pace to surpass that mark.
Not only did Street build his game plan around Rameau, but he fostered the growth process that Rameau has embarked on. He encouraged him to focus on his grades, he helps keep him in check on and off the field, and when Afrane is traveling or feeling overworked, Street will drive Rameau and his little brother to school.
“Coach Street has been such a good role model,” Afrane said. “I’m just so grateful.”
Amazing human and athlete! Most importantly, coachable! What else can a coach ask for. https://t.co/sbElolHeUe
— CoachStreet (@CoachStreet1) September 2, 2023
Rameau doesn’t receive special treatment from Street, it’s just how the coach is wired. He overextends himself, he said, to benefit the well-being of his players.
Rameau certainly takes from it as he’s assumed more of a leadership role this year.
It’s evident in the way the younger running backs mirror his playing style and excel at a similar rate in their limited sample size.
On Friday, freshman Devyn Del Toro had four carries for 108 yards and two touchdowns, and sophomore Benjamin Gomez-Zullo had three carries for 42 yards and a touchdown.
“He just always runs hard,” Del Toro said. “I’m trying to learn from that.”
Believe it or not Rameau takes some time to himself to sit on the couch on Sundays. He’s not relaxing, though. He’s studying the game of those running backs whose outcries regarding their contract situations and usage keep him up at night.
Rameau admires Marshawn Lynch for the way he keeps his legs moving, Saquon Barkley for his cuts on the outside, and Najee Harris for his stiff arm.
Soon enough, he himself may be a subject of the controversy that’s consuming his idles. He doesn’t care about the money, Rameau said he never will.
He decided to rectify his situation because of the love he has for playing running back, having the ball in his hands, and the responsibility that comes with an entire offense being on his back.