Once the final question had been answered in a lengthy interview, Westminster High School lineman Herman Baine had a question of his own.
"Why are you doing a story about me ?" he asked.
Never mind that Baine has developed into the best defensive lineman for the South team that will play in the 27th Orange County All-Star football game at 7:30 Friday night at Orange Coast College's LeBard Stadium.
Forget that he had earned all-league honors for two consecutive years in the Sunset League, one of the most competitive football leagues in the Southern Section.
So what if he had helped underdog Westminster's drive to the semifinals of the Big Five Conference playoffs last fall that included a shocking 14-2 victory over Riverside Poly.
Herman Baine still wonders how he was selected to be among the 33 players whom South Coach Bill Crow has working out every day at Mission Viejo High.
"I thought I was good enough to play in the game, but I also thought I might get overlooked," he said. "The best players at Westminster were underclassmen. They were the guys who made the all-county teams."
But it's Baine, a 6-foot, 235-pound nose guard, who is making the impact in the South camp. "You look at him, and he doesn't appear to be that quick," Crow said. "But then he lines up, you snap the ball and he's all over the field.
"He's been in our backfield so much, I thought he was a running back. He's pretty quiet, but when he says something it's usually pretty funny."
Baine has a reason for feeling glib these days. For the first time in nearly two years, he's playing without a nagging shoulder injury.
Baine pinched a nerve in his right shoulder at the end of his junior season. The injury healed only recently, after a layoff from workouts and weightlifting.
"I was always lifting or playing, and my shoulder never had time to heal," he said. "About halfway through the season, I couldn't lift my arm over my head. I still ice my shoulder every night."
The injury slowed Baine, but he played well enough to lead the Lions to a third-place finish in the Sunset League behind co-champions Edison and Marina to earn a berth in the Big Five Conference playoffs.
Westminster became the surprise team of the postseason tournament, upsetting top-ranked Riverside Poly in the first round. Poly had been ranked No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and had a 23-game winning streak.
Baine said Poly's reputation had no bearing on the game.
"No one really thought about their record or their ranking," he said. "I watched the films and knew we were going to win. I looked at Poly's linemen and thought, 'These guys aren't that good.'
"I always thought that if we could ever get into the playoffs, we'd do well. The Sunset League is the toughest around."
Westminster defeated Mater Dei in its next playoff game, setting up a rematch with Edison in the semifinals. The Lions had handed Edison its only defeat during league season, but Edison rebounded for a 7-3 win and went on to tie Long Beach Poly for the title.
"Our defense played well against Edison, but our offense was in another world," Baine said. "Nobody beat us all year because they were quicker or stronger than us. Personally, I like the idea of physically beating somebody and gaining their respect."
Baine began to gain respect at Westminster as a freshman. He sat on the bench for two games, and when a starter was injured he got his chance. He started every game the remainder of his career.
Baine's varsity debut as a junior in 1984 was memorable. He was pitted against La Quinta's Tom Hollar, who was named The Times' Orange County Lineman of the Year that season.
"It was my first varsity game, and I was feeling high and mighty," he said. "He pounded me. I've never taken shots like that anywhere. He beat on me the entire game."
One of Baine's off-the-field jobs is to keep overzealous rock and sports fans from beating each other up at major events. He works part time for a security company that polices concerts, motocrosses and dances.
Baine has one tip on how to break up fights: "Make sure you have another security officer with you when you break up a fight, or the fighters will turn on you."
Baine also loads trucks with Westminster teammate Dave Brandt at a firm in Fullerton. He works from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day and then reports to football practice at 4 in Mission Viejo.
"He has a tight schedule, but he's only missed one day of practice," Crow said. "He's been a real joy to be around and work with."
Baine, who graduated with a 2.7 grade-point average, plans to attend Golden West College. He said he received several Division II offers.
Said Baine: "Like everybody else, I want a Division I scholarship. But I didn't get any offers."
Until then, Baine can find the answer to his question by simply looking at his play on the football field.