Odyssey running back Chris Weaver

Odyssey running back Chris Weaver is aiming for the 3A record in career rushing yards this season.

Chris Weaver is a relatively unknown name, even for those deeply entrenched in the Arizona high school football community.

But, the opponents of the senior running back at Odyssey Institute in Buckeye know what’s coming at them each week for the Minotaurs.

Weaver, with another outstanding football season, has a legitimate shot to set the state’s career rushing yards record by the end of 2019. In 2018, he totaled 2,398 yards as a junior, just two less than the 2,400 total that led all of Arizona.

“As a player, he is the heart and soul of this team,” said Gunnar Strassburg, a senior lineman for the Minotaurs.

Weaver, who through two games to his senior season had 489 yards and eight touchdowns in a couple of Odyssey wins, is the last to brag about his abilities. When his success on the ground is mentioned, he is quick to credit the offensive linemen and fellow teammates for great blocking on a team that runs the ball on a majority of its plays.

It does, in fact, take significant effort to block for him. Opponents have begun stacking the box with a majority of their defensive players near the line of scrimmage to limit his ability to run. In a 55-18 blowout of San Tan Foothills to start the year, Weaver noticed the Sabercats putting nine or 10 players within eight yards of the line.

Rather than complain about the difficulty of running against stacked boxes, though, Weaver smiles at the challenge.

“It’s cool to think about that I’m part of another team’s game plan, and I get talked about like that, and the respect that the other team has,” Weaver said.

This level of success is no surprise, though. He has been the leading back since even his freshman year, when he shocked the coaching staff with his talent.

Coach Jon Castellanos, who took over the Minotaur football program before the 2018 season after coaching at nearby Willow Canyon, remembers instantly recognizing Weaver’s ability.

He said Weaver “passed the eye test with flying colors” when he saw the then-junior running practice routes even before the team put pads on for full practice.

Making jump cuts and showing off speed and strength uncommon for someone of his size — Weaver is not overly big or intimidating looking at first glance — Castellanos knew he had a player to ride for seasons to come.

It didn’t hurt that Weaver racked up nearly 1,200 rushing yards and 19 scores as a sophomore the year before, either.

“I’ve coached some high school kids that have gone on to play college ball, even a few that have played in the NFL at running back, and this kid has all the intangibles,” Castellanos said.

Weaver, according to Max Preps, the official stats site of the AIA, needs 2,413 yards to hold the record for most career rushing yards in 3A history. He was just 15 yards away from that total in 2018, despite Odyssey being ousted in the first round of the 3A playoffs, so another similar year could be enough to reach that target.

But, even more important to him than individual numbers are finding a spot on a college football team in the future — he said he has few looks despite his tremendous statistics — and leading Odyssey to another playoff run.

Barring injury, Weaver’s high-level production on the field will likely remain constant all season. Both of his goals depend on him not only putting up great stats, but also becoming more of a leader off the field.

Odyssey has yet to win a postseason game in his varsity football career. If he is to reach his goals, he acknowledged, the challenge for his senior year will be to become more of a vocal leader as a senior captain. If he can continue to grow, and the Minotaurs follow his lead, though, there is little that will limit Odyssey from chasing a championship in 2019.

“I want to be a leader, talking and doing all that, but it’s even more important that I lead by example. You can’t come out and ask guys to push themselves if you’re not doing it yourself,” Weaver said.

“And, if you’re not doing that, you’re not going to get to the goals we want to have here.”