BELLFLOWER — This large man who has his own football team has not slept in a while, what with all the all-nighters he's been pulling as a security guard. But that doesn't matter because it is Sunday afternoon, the grass is high and soft, and his players, their helmets strapped on, await him.
So Bob Schremp, a whistle around his thick neck, opens his eyes wide, steps onto the field at Bellflower High School and indulges in the passion which at age 48 is consuming his life.
The owner and coach of the Bellflower Bears semipro team, Schremp is preparing for the new season, trying to give these players, who are on the fringe of organized football far from glory, some strategy and respectability.
"Grizzly dog, grizzly dog!"
In a voice not as loud as you would expect, he yells a defensive formation.
Schremp, who played a season of pro football 26 years ago with the Los Angeles Chargers, is a grizzly himself, over 6 feet tall, 290 pounds with bushy hair and an untamed brown beard getting white on the sides. He wears a blue Los Angeles Rams jacket which manages to cover his stomach.
But Schremp's biggest physical attribute, say those who know him, is his heart. He always seems to be helping someone else.
That is why he is here instead of in bed. The players, who love the game but have insecure futures in it, need help.
"I want them to do their best so they can be proud of themselves," Schremp says as footballs sail above him. "I want people to respect and admire what these guys are doing because it takes a lot of dedication.
"My thrill is getting kids back into college or into the pro ranks."
Schremp can go a long time without a thrill.
Nose guard Ariel Gomez, 25, a 6-foot-1, 255-pound Bears veteran, has on a black Los Angeles Raiders T-shirt but that is wishful thinking. "I'm a high-quality player and I shouldn't be playing at this level," insists Gomez, who played at Downey High School and East Los Angeles College.
Rowdiness Relieves Frustrations
He is typical of many semipro players who lift weights all week, then play, often with a rowdiness, to relieve frustrations. They tend not to believe any opinion that they will never rise higher.
Gomez has been a bit down since the Raiders turned down his recent request for a tryout. "I wrote them a nice letter, me and my girlfriend worked on it," he said.
Gomez jokes around at practice, which doesn't please Schremp, who keeps telling his players, "We're going to put together a serious thing here."
The Bears were no laughing matter last season, winning the championship of the 13-team High Desert League. But Bellflower, dissatisfied with rules, officiating and what Schremp called dirty play, has left that league and will compete in the new Southern California Semipro Football League with the San Fernando Valley Freelancers, Los Angeles Outlaws and Boyle Heights Renegades.
But 20 players have left the Bears.
"It was a splinter group that wanted to tell me what to do," said Schremp, who demands respect. Those players left to go to the Norwalk Express, a team which has folded.
He says he won't miss the 20.
Aggressive at Recruiting
"That taught me not to take any crap," Schremp said. "And it made me more aggressive about going out and getting more athletes."
He went out and got a 284-pound fullback, Vodak Hawkins, and a 6-8, 350-pound tackle, Mike Campbell, both of whom played last year for the Ontario Crush.
He said he found Joe Delmontez, his new quarterback--41-year-old veteran Tom Nordee doubts that he will return--in a gym lifting weights. Delmontez has bulked up from 170 pounds to 225 since he played seven years ago at El Rancho High.
Schremp said he can tell he has more athletes this season by their postpractice habits. "Last year the players drank pitchers of beer," he said. "This year they drink pitchers of iced tea."
On the bench is Schremp's wife of 20 years, Artrice. She sits in the sun, holding a notebook with fingers whose nails are long and fuchsia.
"She handles the petty things," Schremp said.
But Artrice also professes to have some technical knowledge of the game. Last year when she suggested, "You guys aren't sustaining your blocks," a player cursed her, said Schremp, like a truck driver. That player is no longer with the team.
"Some of the players resent her. I think it's jealousy," Schremp said.
In her book are information sheets on each player. Vodak Hawkins had written on his, where it asked to list whom to notify in an emergency, "My wife in the stands."
Next to Artrice is Kim Miller, 9, daughter of linebacker Garth Winger. She's the water girl.
"This year we're going to have cheerleaders and Kim's mom is going to be one," Artrice said. "They want traditional, not sexy," she said of the uniforms they will wear. And across the way, the cheerleaders ran up and down the empty bleachers to get in shape.
One night last week, Schremp was at Shoreline Village in Long Beach. He had on another jacket, this one a darker blue and instead of "Rams" it said "Bob Platt Security."