Written by Matt Wixon
North Dallas senior running back shoulders big load, on and off field
When Roderick Johnson knew he was going to lose his battle with lupus, he talked to Geremy Alridge about the future.
You're the oldest child in the house, Johnson told his stepson. You'll be the man of the house now.
Alridge was only 8 years old. But he took his new role seriously after his stepfather died in January 2000.
"I took those words to heart," says Alridge, now a senior at North Dallas. "I still feel like I have to take care of my mom and my brothers and sisters. I don't think anyone can do a better job of it than me."
Alridge, who will turn 19 in December, is still the man of the house. He lives with his mother, Melinda Lampkin, and siblings Juwan, 15; Shaunayvia, 14; and Roderick Jr., 13.
But Alridge is also a big man on campus at North Dallas, where he has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in three straight seasons. His take-charge, take-responsibility personality also shows on defense, where he plays all over the field. As a safety last Thursday, he scooped up a fumble and returned it 35 yards for the winning touchdown in a 21-16 victory over Adamson.
"He doesn't ever want to come off the field," North Dallas coach Brad Peirson says. "He's like, Coach, can I play safety? Can I play cornerback? Can I play linebacker?"
The answer is usually yes at North Dallas, which doesn't often have a player the caliber of the 5-9, 187-pound Alridge. His four-season total of 3,289 rushing yards might make him the school's career rushing leader, but that's hard to confirm.
This is North Dallas we're talking about. The school has been open nearly 90 years, and its football records are sketchy and dim even in the best light. This was the school that had lost 26 straight games before snapping the streak with a 40-14 win over Sunset last season.
Now North Dallas (4-4, 2-3 District 11-4A) has a chance to make the playoffs because of seniors such as Alridge and quarterback LaDedrick Washington. In the past, some of North Dallas' top football players transferred to play for more successful teams, but Alridge and Washington stayed.
Alridge wants to finish what he started and help his friends and teammates win. He says the whole mood at the school is different when the team is winning, and he feels responsibility for raising school spirit.
It's like the responsibility he feels at home, helping raise his siblings.
"I make mistakes, but I always try to do everything I can," he says. "I know they're going to look at me and do what I do and mimic what I do."
That's a good thing. Alridge does well in school and his mother calls him a "phenomenal kid" who everyone loves. Lampkin's only complaint about her son is that he's a perfectionist.
"He wants to be the best in everything," his mom says, laughing. "I used to tell him, 'You get on my nerves. Everything can't be perfect.' "
Everything hasn't been perfect for Alridge. He has no relationship with his birth father, who lives in Los Angeles. The only man he recognized as his father was his stepfather, who died a month after Alridge's eighth birthday. In 2006, Alridge's beloved grandmother, Ollie, died.
Alridge points to the sky to recognize them after every touchdown. And after every touchdown, Alridge hopes he will get recognized by college scouts. He has letters from several colleges, but no scholarship offers.
"I think Geremy can play running back in Division I football," Peirson says. "He's not the fastest, but man, he is an amazing runner. What college coaches don't see is his determination."
With a scholarship, Alridge is confident he will be the first person in his family to graduate from college. But even without a scholarship, he is determined to go to college. He wants to study business management. He's also considering sports medicine, which seems like a natural for someone who prides himself on taking care of people.
But when Alridge leaves for college, who will be the role model for his brothers and sister? Who will be there to show them the way?
Alridge says he isn't worried.
"They're older," he says, "and I think they're understanding life a little better."
It sounds like the man of the house is doing a pretty fine job.