NFA's Exum-Strong provides support to talented backfield

Khaleed Exum-Strong, who could start in the backfield for most high school teams, plays a supporting role at NFA behind Boston College-bound Marcus Outlow.

Norwich - Khaleed Exum-Strong was about to conduct a recent interview. And couldn't. That's because his friend Marcus Outlow kept making him giggle.

"Can you go away?" Exum-Strong said, chuckling.

Funny, but it wouldn't be so illogical to think that were Exum-Strong of different character, he'd suggest that to Outlow more literally: Go away.

And that's because Exum-Strong, a junior, could be the feature back on just about any other team in Connecticut. But at Norwich Free Academy, he's best supporting actor to Outlow, an all-state senior headed to Boston College.

It wouldn't be the first story of jealousy among teammates.

"Marcus is a real good friend," Exum-Strong said recently. "A brother."

Exum-Strong, a junior, will have his time. If he doesn't already. Outlow will keep defensive coordinators busier than Manhattan this season. But if you figure out a way to contain him, there's Exum-Strong, every bit as capable of a 1,000-plus yards.

He has rushed for 154 yards and four touchdowns thus far, not to mention two interceptions and a sack as a linebacker. The fourth-ranked Wildcats (2-0) play at Glastonbury on Friday night live on theday.com.

"Khaleed is so fortunate to be in the position he's in," NFA coach Jemal Davis said. "He's obviously got Marcus ahead of him. But he sees what's happening to Marcus with scholarship offers and notoriety.

"He's also got Tuzar (senior Tuzar Skipper) who is basically a carbon copy of Marcus on defense. He can look at those guys and say 'that's what I want to be.' He can say, 'I can surpass that because I have another year.' Next year, people are really going to notice him."

Exum-Strong was born in New London and has several friends on New London's varsity. His family's move to NFA denied the Whalers of adding what Davis calls a "model citizen."

"Everybody likes him," Davis said. "On the team, in school, a gentleman."

Outlow doesn't necessarily agree that next year is Exum-Strong's time. This year isn't looking so bad at the moment.

"He's an awesome teammate. I need him and I appreciate everything he does behind the scenes," Outlow said.

"Such a great kid. When I got here, I had Tony (Anthony Facchini) in front of me and I had to wait my turn. It's similar to Khaleed.

"I tell him to stay humble," Outlow said. "I'm not going to let him go unnoticed. He's just as important to this team as I am."

NFA plays Glastonbury and Ledyard in the next two weeks, a pair of teams very capable of making the state playoffs. Which is where the Wildcats have been the last two years. It's not often the accomplishments of NFA football can rival (or surpass) New London.

But Exum-Strong appears to be in a good place.

"NFA," Exum-Strong said, "was the better choice for me."

m.dimauro@theday.com

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