Sam Whitney is so unsure of his friend that he’s tempted to call in a team of biologists for closer examination.
The Folsom High School two-way lineman studies linebacker Bailey Laolagi and wonders about his scientific makeup, his DNA. The Superman shirt Laolagi wears under his uniform and shoulder pads, so tight it appears to be painted, is fitting, Whitney said.
From the energy and effort to the bulging biceps, Laolagi is Folsom’s Superman, teammates agree. But Laolagi doesn’t flaunt the Superman logo the way Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers does. This Superman prefers to blend in with teammates and is more concerned about leading a defense that has been nearly as dominant as the record-setting offense for the Bulldogs (15-0), who play Oceanside (14-0) for the CIF State Division I title Friday in Carson.
“There’s an ongoing joke here that Bailey really is Superman, because not too long after he had ACL surgery, he was squatting 405 pounds like it was nothing,” Whitney said. “He’s literally not human. It’s honestly ridiculous what that guy can do. I don’t understand his science. At the least, he’s a different type of human.”
At the very least, Laolagi has a different sort of drive. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior recovered quickly from a left knee injury that knocked him out of the 2013 playoffs. He embraced rehabilitation after a torn ACL and broken leg, and he came back better than before, without losing lateral quickness or burst.
Laolagi credits his recovery to genetics and noted conditioning expert Al Biancani, the one-time Kings trainer known as a taskmaster. Laolagi returned an interception 17 yards for a touchdown and ran for a score in Folsom’s 52-14 rout of Grant in the Northern California Division I title game.
“Biancani was great,” Laolagi said. “I honestly think my knee is stronger than the other one. I really wanted to come back strong. It was important to me.”
Laolagi’s weight-room prowess is legendary, and coaches have had to flick the lights to get him to leave. They also holler to him that he doesn’t need to pull any more tires in driving rain.
“We tell him, ‘Bailey, it’s time, man, let’s go!’ and he’s still in there hammering away on the weights,” said Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson, who showed a cellphone picture of Laolagi lifting, his muscle shirt in tatters. “He won’t stop.”
Added co-coach Troy Taylor: “The best story was when (quarterback) Jake Browning worked out with Bailey for three hours. Jake said, ‘Coach, I’m serious. I could physically see Bailey getting bigger, the muscle definition.’ Bailey’s amazing. He’s the hardest-working kid we’ve had, and as good as he is at linebacker – and he’s great – he’s also our best running back.”
And that chiseled body?
“We’d all kill to have a body like that,” Taylor said.
Laolagi has scholarship offers from Sacramento State and Cal Poly, with growing interest from other programs. And he wants to study exercise science, which seems too good to be true.
“I love to work out, to get better,” said Laolagi, who praises the efforts of fellow linebackers Sam Whittingham and Tyler Crandall. “I looked up to players who were here before me, like Jordan Richards (now a standout safety at Stanford). My dad (Val) always says to push yourself, to give it everything you have. I do. I put in the time. I push myself to the highest standard.”
Val Laolagi, a Folsom defensive coach, held his own as a defensive lineman at Sac State for coach Bob Mattos in the late 1980s, and he can still hold his own when he hits the weight room. Val said he had “great, long discussions with Mattos about coaching, about coaching my son.”
Said Val: “I couldn’t do what Bailey does. Wow.”
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.
CIF STATE DIVISION I FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Who: Folsom (15-0) vs. Oceanside (14-0)
When: Friday, 8 p.m.
Where: StubHub Center, Carson
Cost: $15, $10 for students and seniors, plus $10 for parking