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Roosevelt's Johnnie Akins ready to run at Empire Challenge

Running back Johnnie Akins of Roosevelt takes part

Running back Johnnie Akins of Roosevelt takes part in the Long Island team practice for the 19th annual Empire Challenge high school football all-star game in Hempstead on Monday, June 23, 2014. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Each time Roosevelt's Johnnie Akins puts on his uniform, he cherishes that No. 32.

It's the same number all-time great Jim Brown wore and the one football player whose game Akins mimics the most.

"I watched him when I was little. I saw a documentary on him," Akins said. "He's a hard runner, a brick wall-type player. He was fast as ever."

Akins, a 5-9, 190-pound running back, is pretty good himself. That's why he was selected to play in this year's Empire Challenge All-Star football game. The 19th annual game, scheduled for at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium, showcases Long Island's top seniors against the best of the five boroughs in New York City.

"Being a part of this, it's like everybody brings the same intensity as you do," Akins said. "It's a great feeling, being with all the guys that you really never knew. There's actually some cool guys here, too."

In other words, "football is everything to everybody," Akins said. "It's a great feeling being around that."

When told at Monday's practice that blitzing isn't allowed in the game, Akins said he can already see the "daylight" in front of him.

"So, then the City is going to have a hard time with us," Akins said. "The middle's going to be open. I know exactly where to run."

Where Akins is running after the game is to SUNY Cortland in the fall, where he will showcase his talents in the backfield for the Red Dragons. Akins feels it's a match made in heaven.

"They made me feel like I was already part of the team," Akins said. "When I get there, I'm going to play hard, run hard and see where it goes."

Back to that No. 32.

Even though it means the world to him personally, "if someone else wanted it, it wouldn't bother me," Akins said.

That's the part that makes Akins special and successful. When his teammates are happy, he's happy. It's one of the reasons the Rough Riders are coming off back-to-back-to-back Nassau Conference IV titles.

Now, it's time for an Empire Challenge four-peat for Long Island.

"I'm going to try to make people miss and score," Akins said. "Get the first down, or get as many yards as I can."

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