Coaches past and present agree Damone Boone, a 1996 West Springfield graduate, was a running back with great speed, balance and determination. They all also agree that Boone was quiet and humble, and as good as running backs come.
"He was the type of player you have once in a lifetime while you are coaching," said Gerry Pannoni, the Spartans offensive coordinator at the time. "You just try to absorb it and enjoy it while you have him."
Pannoni, still a coach in the area, said Boone had the ability to shift gears when he wanted to. "He went from half-speed to full-speed quicker than any kid I've ever seen," he said.
The Spartans head coach at the time, Frank Creneti, said Boone had many physical attributes that made him special, but the thing that separated him from the others was his vision. Creneti said Boone could read his blocks while a play was developing, and then use his physical abilities to make cuts to evade tackles.
"ANY TIME he touched the ball he could go the distance," said Mat Shannon, a 1994 West Springfield graduate and the current head coach at Fairfax High School. Shannon, the Spartans' quarterback Boone's sophomore year, echoed Pannoni's thought about Boone's ability to explode through the line of scrimmage. "He had the ability to get up to full speed quicker than anyone I've ever seen," he said. Shannon added: "Boone was the most electrifying kid I've played with and seen, both as a player and as a coach."
In The Connection's 1995 Football Preview, prior to Boone's senior season, he was quoted: "I don't think when I get the ball. All of my moves are off instinct. Any running back will tell you that when they get the ball, they grab it and just go for what they know."
DURING HIS time at West Springfield, Boone set many rushing records. Perhaps the most impressive is the state of Virginia's rushing record for a single game. On Nov. 10, 1995, Boone rushed for 500 yards on 32 carries in a 48-6 win over Annandale. Incidentally, the game was Boone's last of the career. He broke the previous record, 467 yards, set in Group A of the VHSL, on a 19-yard run with a minute left to play.
Prior to the game Boone had asked Creneti if he could go for the record. Creneti said he would wait until halftime to decide whether to let Boone go for the record or not. Boone gained close to 300 yards in the first half, so Creneti gave him the green light. "He's never been cocky. He never does any hotdog stuff," said Creneti in a Nov. 16, 1995, article in the Springfield Connection.
In the three years of varsity football at West Springfield, the Parade All-American rushed for 4,695 yards and scored 64 touchdowns. His senior year he set the AAA record for rushing yards in a single season, gaining 2,592 yards on the ground in 10 games.
"IN MY 38 years of coaching football, I've seen some great backs, and Damone is as good as any of them, if not better," said Creneti. He said that during his tenure as the football coach at American University he did not have a player with athletic ability anywhere close to Boone's. Creneti added that Boone was a great team player, who sacrificed himself and played sick and hurt to help his team. He also said Boone was an immediate success, as his 1,081 yards and 22 touchdowns as a sophomore prove. In the Connection's 1995 Football Preview, Creneti talked about the first time he saw Boone play in 1992 for the Spartans freshman team. It was in a preseason scrimmage against West Potomac. Creneti said: "The first four times he touched the ball he scored touchdowns. The first three were running plays. Then we took him off the offense and put him on defense. West Potomac tried to throw a pass over the middle, and he intercepted it and ran it back for a touchdown. I knew we had something special at that point."
"HE COULD DO it all," said Pannoni. "He could leave your shoes on one side of the field and you on the other [side]." Pannoni added that Boone was a quiet leader on the team, who just went out on the field and got his job done.
Boone was known to score short yardage touchdowns using his strength, and break for long gains to score. The five-foot-nine running back grew from 145 pounds to 190 pounds between his sophomore and senior year. Creneti said he remembered a play against Lake Braddock in which Boone broke three or four tackles at the line of scrimmage to cross in for the score. It was in a 1993 playoff game.
Prior to his senior year at West Springfield, Boone ran the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds and bench pressed 365 pounds. He was contacted by many major Division I NCAA schools, and chose Maryland to play.
Maryland was not the right fit for Boone, said Shannon. He said Boone also had family issues to sort out. After a couple of years at home Boone went back to school. He played football at Carson-Newman College in Tennessee. Shannon said Carson-Newman is a Division II powerhouse. Boone recorded impressive numbers again, playing his senior season in 2003.
In his junior year at Carson-Newman, Boone rushed for 866 yards and 10 touchdowns on 98 attempts. He averaged 8.8 yards per carry. He was named to the All-South Atlantic Conference Team that year, and led the Eagles to the NCAA Division II quarterfinal in 2003, his senior year.
Damone Boone is 39 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.