Keino Salmon has a knack for stepping in when needed.
Salmon is a senior at Northeast High School, and throughout his career, he jumped at playing any position when the Vikings needed someone to step up.
This year, the Vikings didn’t need him to change positions, but they did need him to fill a role he hadn’t really done before.
Northeast had some top talent decide to forgo playing this spring. Among them are Texas A&M recruits, wide receiver and defensive back Tyreek Chappell and two-way end Elijah Jeudy.
They were both leaders and now they’re not there. Salmon is happy to fill the role.
“I think I’m going to be a really good leader because I’ve been here for four years and I’ve learned from so many great leaders,” said Salmon, who lives in West Philadelphia. “I’ve been here since freshman year, playing junior varsity. I’ve been here since we became them dogs. We’ve become one of the best team in the city. We are good because we have talent, but we’re also really organized and we practice hard. We have great coaches, but we’ve always had great leaders, too.
“I like being a leader. I knew I was going to have to do it because I’m a senior, but even more when we found out some guys weren’t playing. Shoutout to those guys, they’re great people and great guys, but we’re just as good without them because we’re going to keep putting in the work. We miss them, but we’ll be OK. Any team that thinks we’re not going to be as good because they’re not here, they’ll find out.”
West Catholic can attest to that.
Playing spring football, the Vikings got off to a great start on Saturday when they beat the Burrs 36-0 on opening day.
Salmon scored a touchdown at running back and made five stops on defense, but he was quick to point out it wasn’t the Salmon show. He credits the victory to a team effort.
“We still have a lot to get better at, but we did pretty good, I think, for the first game,” Salmon said. “The defense, we don’t care about shutouts, we want to shut everyone out. That’s our goal, and I think we have a really good defense. West is a good team, but we were able to stop them most of the time.
“But I was glad to play. I wanted to play so bad. When we found out we weren’t playing (in the fall), we were devastated. I was upset. I was happy today, I was happy for us and I was happy for West Catholic. We wanted to play, they wanted to play. I’m happy we won, but man, I’m happy we were able to play.”
Salmon was his usual self in the opener, doing anything he can to help the team.
He played running back on offense, played a few positions on defense, mostly outside linebacker, but also some middle linebacker and strong safety, and was also on just about every special team unit.
“When I was playing running back, a lot of people didn’t know I ran the ball, so it was fun to do that,” Salmon said. “I’ve been running since I got here freshman year, but not everyone knew that. And defense, that’s what I love.”
Salmon was also quick to give praise to some of his coaches after the game.
The win over West marked the first as head coach for Eric Clark, who took over for Phil Gormley after last year.
He’s still very fond of Gormley, whom he met when he was in eighth grade when Salmon was playing for Fox-Rok.
And he also said his position coach Seth Shapiro has proven to be a great mentor during his entire time with the team.
“When I first got here, I was a young kid always at the back of the line during drills and (Shapiro) saw something on me and kind of brought me along to make me better,” Salmon said. “He’s my guy, he’s been my guy the whole time I’ve been here. He’s hard on me, he’s definitely hard on me, but he’s a great coach who helped me a lot.
“Coach Clark is my guy. He’s a great coach. He’s been here for years, he’s doing great as a head coach. And I miss (Gormley), too. He’s my guy, too. All of the coaches here look out for you.”
It was a great start to the season for the Vikings, but Salmon isn’t ready to start any championship speech yet.
Northeast has a tough schedule and now it’s against Public League foes, so the stakes will even be higher because he wants to prove his squad is the best.
Salmon also wants to find a school to continue his football career. He may major in business, but he’s not even close to ready to declaring it. He does know he wants to play football.
“I’ve talked to a lot of coaches, I was lucky, I had film from my junior year, I’m more worried about the guys who didn’t have tape because the season was moved to the spring,” Salmon said. “I want to play safety in college. I think. Or running back. Safety and running back if I can.
“I am more worried about this year. I’ll definitely get a school, I want to make sure we have a really good season. I want to have a great season for me, but more for the school. I want people to know we’re dogs and we’re going to fight you. We have a good team and we’re coming to show everyone that.”