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  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    Placer's Eddie Vanderdoes sums it up: "You have to be kind of crazy to play line." He's so popular in Auburn he has a hamburger – "The Big Eddie" – named for him.

  • Brian Baer / Special to The Bee

    Folsom's Josh Wormley has plenty of team spirit and dance moves. "My friends do think I'm a little crazy," he said.

  • Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Burbank's Ngalu Tapa leads the state in sacks and likes to pull off his helmet and yell into the air on the sideline.

  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    Eddie Vanderdoes, a 6-foot-4, 303-pound senior defensive lineman at Placer High School, said all the hitting and hurting he endures makes it "OK to be a dork."

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Preps Plus: Area linemen quirky by nature

Published: Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 - 3:44 pm

Eddie Vanderdoes can explain all of it.

The quirky nature. The sideline shimmy shake. The good cheer when his body aches.

He's a lineman.

Vanderdoes heads a large and in charge brigade of regional high school blockers, run stoppers and sack artists whose big games are matched by their big personalities.

A 6-foot-4, 303-pound senior defensive tackle for Placer, Vanderdoes said linemen require a certain mentality to man the trenches that include collisions on every snap. He's done his part for the Hillmen's 11-0 team that seeks a Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship.

"You have to be kind of crazy to play line, kind of mad," Vanderdoes said. "All the hitting, it doesn't feel good the next day. Head hurts, hand hurts, ankles. So it's OK to be a dork."

Josh Wormley, a 6-1, 260-pound senior offensive lineman at Folsom takes it personally if his quarterback even gets touched by a defensive lineman, or if someone claims to be a better dancer. His quarterback, Jake Browning, has tossed 50 touchdown passes for the 11-0 Bulldogs, who are seeking their second D-II section title in three years.

Wormley is the self-proclaimed king of freestyle rap on campus. He gyrates and grooves for his teammates before and after games. During competition, his co-coach Kris Richardson said: "Josh has a big-time nasty streak. But as soon as it's over, he's all smiles."

Wormley sports a big belly, but he doesn't try to conceal it. He leaves it exposed for all to see at practice. No wonder teammates call him "The Big Lovely."

"I like to have a little fun, and my friends do think I'm a little crazy," Wormley said. "All linemen are."

William Vi mans the defensive line for Franklin in Elk Grove, which is 11-0 and seeks a D-I championship. The 5-10, 210-pound Vi uses quickness to zip around bigger linemen, and he uses quick wit to keep his teammates and coaches in stitches.

"Nicest kid I've ever known," Wildcats coach Mike Johnson said. "He once told me, 'Happy Labor Day, Coach!' He'll text me to have a good weekend. Then he'll flip that switch to what I call 'Go Juice,' and he'll tear your helmet off."

How does a coach explain the behavior of linemen?

"I think their personality gives them spark," Johnson said.

Folsom co-coach Troy Taylor agreed. The Cordova graduate set passing marks at Cal and played a bit in the NFL, so he understands the value – and quirks – of a lineman.

"They're usually the sharpest guys on the team," Taylor said. "They have to make a ton of calls and decisions on the line, and they get after it. They're gladiators, and they never complain. Skill guys are playing throw and catch and the linemen are hitting the sled."

And they play in pain.

"Wormley came over during a game with his fingernail torn off," Taylor said. "Nasty injury. He didn't want to come out because he wanted to protect his quarterback. Linemen play. If it was me, I'd be off to the hospital."

At D-IV Capital Christian, the biggest man on campus also has the biggest laugh.

Two-way junior lineman Nifae Lealao, all 6-4 and 270 pounds, loves contact, his team's 10-1 record and fashion. Yes, fashion.

"He carries a book to tell you which colors match and which clash," said Jason Harper, a motivational speaker involved with Character Combine, a program that works with area coaches and athletes. "He could be a Hollywood stylist A-lister. He took a (recruiting) trip to the Oregon Ducks but couldn't stand the green. He's a behemoth of a man with an even bigger heart, and you'd think he sings in deep bass. Instead, he's in the school choir as a tenor."

The other 11-0 team in the D-I field is Burbank, a program anchored on defense by junior tackle Ngalu Tapa. He's a 6-3, 270-pound force of nature, known to pull his helmet off on the sideline and yell into the air, his shock of hair spilling out like straw. Tapa leads the state with 22 sacks, and he leads his team in charm, his friends say.

"I've been told I'm a little different," Tapa said with a grin.

At Elk Grove, the 10-1 Thundering Herd is on a quest for the D-II title with the help of a defensive end with slight shoulders – Bwon Canada. He's a 6-1, 178-pound junior whose "constant motor" allows him to impact games, coach Chris Nixon said.

Canada's nickname is "Squidward" for resembling the SpongeBob character, and his boundless energy keeps his teammates guessing at what's coming next.

Canada missed two games late this season as he awaited medical clearance. He paced the sideline like a caged tiger.

"I don't think the doctor understood his personality," Nixon said. "It's nice to know a SpongeBob character sparks us."

So when does a lineman evolve into his personality? Early for Canada.

Elk Grove quarterback Tommy Arnold recalled his youth football days suiting up alongside Canada, and the sounds and smells coming from his teammate.

"He's the only guy I've seen growling and salivating on the line of scrimmage," Arnold said. "That was when we were 10 years old. He still does it."

Said Canada: "I can't help it. It's who I am."

In Auburn, Vanderdoes is a celebrity. A local hamburger joint invited the most heavily recruited athlete in Placer High history to create his own signature burger. So he did: Four quarter-pound patties, four slices of cheese and handfuls of veggies for "The Big Eddie."

"I ate it two different times, and when I finished, I was done for the whole day," Vanderdoes said. "You need a nap (after) one of those because it'll change your day."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Joe Davidson



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