Lakeview Centennial High School coach Ant Saincilaire knew University of Alabama signee, running back Camar Wheaton was going to be a special player pretty early on.
As early as his freshman season, when Wheaton rushed for 439 yards and five touchdowns on only 22 carries in just three quarters of action in the first playoff game of his Patriots career.
"He really stole the show that night," Saincilarie told Bama Central. "That was one of his defining moments for sure."
Wheaton, who signed with the Crimson Tide earlier this month, will arrive at the Capstone as a summer enrollee. According to Sports Illustrated All-American, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound tailback was the No. 2 running back and No. 9 overall player in the 2021 recruiting class.
"The Camar Wheaton that I know is a hard-working young man," Saincilarie said. "He loves football and loves being around his teammates and loves his family. That's what type of kid he is. To me, what makes him special is that he has been one of the top guys in the country ever since he was a freshman and he's never once allowed that to interrupt his relationship with his teammates, his family and his work ethic."
Wheaton had one of the more quiet recruitments during this most recent cycle and before making a verbal pledge two days before Christmas last year, the Garland, Tex. product was torn between Alabama and Oklahoma.
To many, the Sooners were the leaders for a large part of the process, but Saincilarie says it was the development and culture that put the Crimson Tide over the top for Wheaton's services.
"I always felt like Alabama was up there because he was always a fan," Saincilarie said. "Especially when you got somebody like Nick Saban there and you have the tradition and culture that they have developed. When we visited for the first time, you could tell Camar was really intrigued. It made an impression on him. Every time we went back, it just kept growing on him in a positive way. I felt like Alabama was always in the mix.
"Never felt like there was a leader in there, but just whenever he was going to evaluate his decision, Alabama was going to be the measuring stick for him."
Now, the running back room in Tuscaloosa is loaded with the return of senior Brian Robinson Jr. and Kelian Robinson, a healthy Trey Sanders and rising sophomores Jase McClellan, Roydell Williams and Kyle Edwards.
Mix in Wheaton, and the competition is just getting started.
"He's very competitive," Saincilarie said. "He's one of those kids that you can depend on. He's not afraid of competition. He's not afraid about putting in the extra work to get better. He's not afraid of getting coached. His work ethic and commitment to the game is going to show that.
"He puts his head down and goes to work. He knows how to block out the outside noise. He has been doing his entire life. He doesn't read too much into rankings or anything like that. All he cares about is how can he get better and how can he make his team better."
Saincilarie, who has known Wheaton since he was in middle school, believes that Wheaton's game is one-of-a-kind. As a senior, he finished his prep career with 603 yards and eight touchdowns in a pandemic-shortened season.
"He's got everything that you want in a running back," Saincilarie said. "He's extremely fast. He's strong enough and can handle the workload. He's special. There's really not another running back who you can compare him to. I think he has a little bit of everything in his game. He knows when to turn it on and when to use it. He's just different. You can throw it to him or you can hand it off to him.
"He gets it."