A hearty smile enveloped the face of Southern Lab junior running back Darbbeon Profit when discussing his all-out approach to running the football.

Because of the previous two years spent playing defense, Profit incorporated that same physical approach into his running style, where he often initiated contact rather than trying to avoid it or use the sideline to preserve his body.

“I liked tackling so when I got through the line I wanted to make contact and coach told me I couldn’t do that every time,” Profit said. “It was pretty hard for me at first, but as the season went on I started working on drills to make better cuts. But if the defender is coming toward me I’ll go head up.”

Profit’s evolution over the season into a consistent running threat has been paramount to a Southern Lab offense that sought better balance this season.

With the return of junior quarterback Bladrick Veal, the Kittens had an established passing game with threats on the outside in wide receivers Curtlan Williams and Tevis Abraham.

The emergence of Profit has not only lessened the burden on Veal but elevated an already potent offense that will be on display when No. 5 Southern Lab (8-5) takes on No. 6 Ouachita Christian in Friday’s Division IV state championship at 10 a.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“It helps when you have a running back that you can lean on to really eat up chunks of yards,” Southern Lab coach Nick Mitchell said. “He’s helped Bladrick become more confident by limiting his throws because the chains are always moving.”

Mitchell referred to Profit as a “jack of all trades” for his ability and willingness to play as many as five positions on defense last season, earning all-district honors at defensive end, where the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder utilized his speed to rush the quarterback.

The Kittens returned leading rusher Demonte Lang from a group of running backs that accounted for 1,200-1,300 yards last season but with a group of talented defenders coming back, Mitchell opted to bring Profit over to the offense.

Profit wasn’t exactly a novice to the position, a place he excelled during middle school, but had to retrace his steps in order to get comfortable again. That meant brushing up on his footwork and taking handoffs from Veal, while learning to read the blocks of his offensive line and identify cutback lanes during the spring.

“When coach told me I was playing running back again, I couldn’t wait for football season to start,” Profit said. “It felt like I was back where I was supposed to be.”

Mitchell saw immediate results from Profit as early as the spring scrimmage with West St. John. By the time the Kittens finished their jamboree with Hahnville, Profit had become the team’s primary ball carrier after a shoulder injury to Lang.

Veal still piled up some impressive numbers but not at same rate as last season, having thrown for 1,857 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Profit, who missed one game with injury, carried 213 times for 1,744 yards — an average of 8.2 yards per carry — and 15 touchdowns.