SNOHOMISH — It has been said that good things come to those who wait.
For fans of that cliche, Glacier Peak running back Michael Palmer’s story is a good example.
The senior running back is one of the leaders on a Grizzlies team that plays Marysville Pilchuck on Friday night for the Wesco 3A championship. Palmer is 96 yards shy of becoming the first player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season — and this is his first year as a full-time starter. Palmer spent his first year of high school on the freshman team and played a limited role on varsity in his sophomore and junior seasons.
“It was a long process,” Palmer said. “I thought if I just kept working hard all the time and it also helped looking up to the people that were ahead of me, taking in what they do wrong and what they do right every year. I just took all that in and eventually displayed that when I got to my senior year, when I got the chance to show what I have. And it’s going well. …
“I knew everyone gets their own shot at one point,” Palmer said.
For a breakdown of Friday’s Wesco 3A championship game, click here
It is his work ethic and persistence that Grizzlies coach Rory Rosenbach said has led Palmer to where he is. But that doesn’t mean the road was always smooth.
“He was frustrated,” Rosenbach said.
Frustrated maybe, but Palmer never stopped working. He worked on conditioning and strength in the offseason and his understanding of the offensive schemes continued to improve.
Last season he got his first start at running back against Marysville Getchell, rushing for nearly 200 yards.
Palmer said he believes that is the night he caught the attention of the coaching staff.
“I got to play a lot of that game and I had a really good game and I think that really made them notice me,” Palmer said. “And also how hard I was working in the weight room because during the summer. I was always the last or second to last person to leave the weight room. And the weight coach definitely noticed that.”
But Rosenbach noticed Palmer long before that game against Marysville Getchell.
“He might think that, but I’ve known since he was a freshman that this kid is a really good athlete,” Rosenbach said. “He fumbled as a freshman a lot. That was kind of his issue. He was there with Sean (Elledge) and Quinton (Dunbar). Those were kind of the big-play guys and he kind of got lost in the shuffle. He did some good things, but he kind of got lost in the shuffle.
“To be honest, when I really noticed him was the end of his freshman year. He was running track and I was working a track meet and he was long jumping. You could tell that since the end of football season that he had worked hard because his body looked different. He looked like an athlete. He could run. He was a long jumper. He was a good athlete. That was kind of the moment that I was like, who’s this guy?’”
Now Palmer is “the guy”. Shouldering nearly the entire rushing load for the Grizzlies, he has rushed for 904 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
“He’s been huge for us,” Rosenbach said. “Obviously the ability to lean on a guy and have that running game that’s consistent has been huge for us early in the year and even more so as we get into the weather and the playoff run.”
Palmer is focused on what he can do to help his team win games, but he admits that reaching 1,000 yards is something he has thought about.
“That has been my goal since the start of the season, to hit 1,000 yards,” Palmer said. “That would make me ecstatic if I did because that’s always what determines a good running back — if they hit 1,000 yards. And that would be really awesome if I can.”
All the hard work that Palmer has put in appears to have paid off and it isn’t just the coaching staff that has taken notice. His teammates have too. Grizzlies offensive lineman David Cho praised Palmer’s work ethic and leadership.
“I think he is a big part of our success since he is one the team leaders on offense,” Cho said.
“I really thought they did notice because I practice with them every day and they could tell that it was translating well into the games and into the weight room,” Palmer said.
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.