Senior running back Rich Sodeke runs the ball during the Lehigh football practice at Whitehead Football Practice Field on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. He is the leading rusher this season. (Andrew Garrison/B&W photo)

Running back Rich Sodeke makes his mark in final season

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With a 2-7 record and several tough losses, the Lehigh football team has not had much success this season. Despite it all, 5-foot-11, 190-lb. senior running back Rich Sodeke has been trying to make the best of his final season here in the brown and white.

The Florham Park, New Jersey, native and marketing major has worked hard to get where he is today, on the field and in the classroom. He has excelled on the field as the leading rusher for the Mountain Hawks this season and remains on track to graduate in 2015.

Sodeke has rushed for 684 yards on 131 carries after nine games and has had three 100-yard rushing games this season. He has also reached the end zone five times on the ground this season and even added a receiving touchdown to his list.

Sodeke said he is going to miss putting the pads on after this season, but he is really going to miss his friends and teammates the most.

“This being my senior year, I am really taking time to enjoy the actual game of football,” he said. “The friendships that I have gained while being on this team is something that I am making sure to take advantage of as well.”

He said the friendships he has made over his time at Lehigh has helped make his time here one of the best experiences of his life. Once it is all said and done, he will graduate and have to move on, but he will never forget his time here at Lehigh.

“I have friends from all of the country, and once I graduate, I won’t be seeing most of them from that point on,” he said.

Four years of being around the same faces is all going to change after graduation. Not seeing his teammates everyday for practice is going to be something very different for Sodeke.

“Between being a student and an athlete, I have made so many memories that I will reflect on for the rest of my life,” he said.

He also said that he has made tremendous leaps mentally, which is a direct reflection of the time he has spent at Lehigh. He says that his experience has made him a better person and is really going to help him during his life after college.

Someone who will miss spending a lot of time around Sodeke in the backfield is the local sophomore quarterback Nick Shafnisky, who says that it has been a blast to be his teammate.

“Sodeke is someone who works very hard all the time,” Shafnisky said about his running back. “He is someone we can rely on when we need short yardage because he will not go down easy.”

Shafnisky is second on the team in rushing yards behind Sodeke, but he admires the way he runs the football.

“Rich has great footwork in the backfield, and he has a very quick first step,” Shafnisky said.

Not only does Sodeke impact the running game, but he also has an impact on the pocket presence of Shafnisky.

“He has taught me how to be comfortable in the pocket by telling me that he has my back at all times and to trust him,” Shafnisky said. “He has also taught me to let the last play go and focus on the next one.”

While Sodeke’s final season is coming to an end in a few weeks, his last game will be against the Lafayette College Leopards in Yankee Stadium for the 150th Rivalry game. He has been a part of this rivalry for three years now, and he said that it seems unreal to be able to play this specialty game to finish out his senior season. He said that it is hard to believe what is about to happen.

“To have my football career and senior year end in Yankee Stadium is truly a blessing,” Sodeke said. “I know how much this game means to alumni, and I am honored to suit up in brown and white.”

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