Northwestern State’s Palmer carves his niche

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Northwestern State head football coach Bradley Dale Peveto preaches team accomplishments over those of individuals.

One look at the Demons’ new uniforms — the ones with “Demons” in place of where players’ names usually reside — spells it out.

That is not to say Peveto doesn’t understand the importance of milestone-type performances like the 102-yard rushing day sophomore D.J. Palmer put together against Southeastern Louisiana on Oct. 15.

“A stamp of a good day in football is when a back gets 100 yards,” Peveto said. “Any time you can run the ball for a hundred yards, it’s a great personal accomplishment, a great team accomplishment.”

Palmer’s big day, highlighted by an 82-yard touchdown run, made him the first Demons running back to cross the 100-yard mark since Rumeall Morris did so Oct. 9, 2010, at Central Arkansas.

It also helped establish the former Many High standout as a true running back. Palmer spent his prep career as a dual-threat quarterback before shifting to running back upon his arrival in Natchitoches.

“The hardest thing was adjusting to the speed of the game,” Palmer said. “The skill players at this level move a lot faster than the skill guys I played against (in high school).”

Palmer had other adjustments to make, including finding a spot in the Demons’ running back rotation. Under Peveto and offensive coordinator Todd Cooley, NSU regularly plays three or four tailbacks. Palmer’s sophomore year started with him, Morris, Sterling Endsley and Sidney Riley sharing time.

Palmer’s role — and importance — has grown weekly as attrition has hit the NSU backfield with Endsley and Riley both suffering season-ending injuries.

“(Riley) didn’t tell us anything (when he was injured),” said Palmer, who leads the Demons with 251 yards rushing on 48 carries.

“If he went down, we knew we had to step up and help the team.”

Palmer’s help has been welcomed, but not unexpected. The 82-yard touchdown run against Southeastern, in which Palmer displayed his gifted vision, was a continuation of the big-play ability he flashed a season ago.

“We knew D.J. was capable of that type of play,” Cooley said. “He’s had some really big runs. He made a great cut. That really adds to us (as an offense). We haven’t had many backs go over a hundred, but we’ve done a pretty good job of running the football.”

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