Coming into his senior season as a member of the Plainview Indians, Eli Paul had set his expectations at a reasonable level, not just for himself but his team as well.
What ended up happening not just for him, but his team, exceeded anything he could have ever dreamed possible.
Plainview went 13-2 for the season, and made the state finals for the first time in their program’s history. As for Paul, he finished as All-Ardmoreite Offensive POY, District 3A-4 Offensive POY, Oklahoman All-State 2nd Team RB, USA Today Oklahoma 2nd Team RB, OK Preps All-State 3rd Team RB.
He also managed to total 2,369 yards on 245 carries and 32 touchdowns.
“I had the bar set below what I actually achieved,” Paul said. “My expectations were I wanted to reach 1,500 yards and my team reaches the third round of the playoffs on Thanksgiving week. And then, we went way beyond those expectations. Looking back, I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates, my coaches and the community of Plainview for all their support.”
Paul added that he had extra motivation coming into the season because of everyone who said the Indians weren’t going to be successful.
“All the people that said we couldn’t do it just fueled me,” he said. “We weren’t ranked in the top-10 during the season. Those words just fueled me and my teammates. It became contagious amongst us and we just said we are going to be better than what people think we are.”
During the season, there were multiple turning points for the Indians. Perhaps none more so than when the Indians suffered a 49-20 defeat against Tuttle on the road. Paul said that following the game there was a sense among everyone they could turn this into something special for the remainder of the year.
“That was a game where we had a lot of great things happen for me and for the team,” he said. “We managed to take the lead, but Tuttle just came back on us. No offense to Tuttle, but we fell apart and that’s what cost us the game. We came in on Sunday and made a commitment to fix those mistakes and make sure they never happened again.”
When the time came for the state finals to happen, the Indians might not have brought home the gold ball, but Paul said the experience was something he will never forget because of how special it was for everyone.
“The experience between us was beyond football,” he said. “To say this was limited to the football field would be a big understatement. This was something that happened in the locker room, in the school and in the community amongst all of us together.”
Following a successful season on the gridiron, Paul helped put together a successful campaign for the Indians wrestling team, in which PHS made the state semifinals of dual state in Class 3A, and placed fourth overall in the state wrestling team tournament.
Paul capped off his outstanding athletic season by finishing second overall in the 170 pound division in the state tournament from the State Fairgrounds Arena in Oklahoma City.
“He’s just a wonderful kid,” PHS head football coach Joe Price said. “You couldn’t have asked for a better example of what you’d want a Plainview football player to be than Eli. From the way he practiced to the way he conducted himself as a leader. You couldn’t have asked for anything more from such a great kid.”
Perhaps the even more impressive accomplishment from Paul outside of athletics was his performance in the classroom. He maintained a 3.85 GPA, and is a member of the National Honor Society. The next destination for Paul is Shawnee, Oklahoma where he will become a member of the Oklahoma Baptist University Bison football team. He will major in Pre-Allied Health Exercise and Sports Science.
“One thing I look forward to being around a bunch of players and coaches that are just like Coach Price,” Paul said. “This is bigger than me, and I’m looking to putting myself on a platform for others and for God. I just want to always make sure that everyone is able to benefit from my hard work, and I’m looking forward to helping people when I start majoring in Allied Health.”
Through his hard work on his athletic stages this season, Eli Paul was awarded as the Male Athlete of the Year award for the 2016-17 season at the Best of the Arbuckles Preps banquet.
“This is just a testament to what hard work will get you,” Paul said. “You don’t always have to be the biggest or the fastest. It’s just something you have to work towards. When you have the right motivation and the right drive, you can do anything.”