At first glance, Alan Glazer doesn't seem extraordinary.
About average in size (5-10, 180); a 2.8 grade-point average at Beverly Hills High School; favorite subjects are American history and math; a .285 hitter last season as a junior-varsity first baseman.
Not much, it seems, to make you want to give him a second glance--except for his right leg.
Glazer's limb, though ordinary in appearance, may some day be as valuable as the Kohinoor Diamond, the large and rare Indian gem that is part of the British crown jewels.
With his foot, Glazer can bestow on Beverly Hills football coaches Bill Stansbury and Dick Billingsley something that either might sell their first-born child for: that often rare gridiron valuable known as Good Field Position.
Glazer is a punter, the best last year in the regular season in the CIF-Southern Section, when he booted the ball 26 times for 1,185 yards, an average of 45.6 yards.
His average was nearly a yard longer than that of his closest competitor, Erick Ripke (44.8 yards) of Workman High in the City of Industry, and was as good or better than that of many of the punters who make very good livings in the National Football League. If Glazer continues to loft the ball for lengthy distances as a college player, it is not inconceivable that he may someday earn big bucks like Ray Guy of the Oakland Raiders, the NFL's Prince of Punters.
Because he can kick the ball high and far, his teammates have time enough to get down field to tackle a punt returner before he can carry the ball back very far. It means that a Beverly Hills opponent seldom gets the chance to start a drive in Norman territory, even when Glazer punts from his own end zone.
Because prep teams are seldom capable of sustaining long drives, Beverly Hills defenders, coached by Billingsley, don't have to stay on the field long if they do their jobs. If the defense does its job right, Stansbury's offense can take over and have to travel only short distances to pay dirt.
That formula seems to be working for the Normans, who are 4-0 going into this week's game with Agoura, at 3 p.m. Saturday at Beverly Hills. Last week they shut out Palisades, 26-0, rolling to a 23-0 lead at half time before a sudden cloudburst soaked the field and slowed down the offense.
Punting is usually considered a defensive weapon. It usually doesn't get you any points, and good punting prevents an opponent from establishing good field position. But against Palisades last week, Glazer actually went on offense with his first punt.
A bad snap from center that nearly went over
Glazer's head made him rush his first punt. But he got it off, and it sailed over the head of a would-be Palisades return man, who managed to get a hand on the ball but then let it roll into the end zone. When no one from Palisades tried to retrieve the ball, Beverly Hill's Memo Kahan alertly fell on it and gave the Normans an easy six points.
If an excellent punt can sometimes get you points, a shanked one can cost you. When the Palisades punter muffed one in the second quarter, the Normans took over at the Dolphins' 22-yard line. After four plays, Beverly Hills tailback Willie Crawford ran nine yards for the team's second touchdown. When the Normans scored their second straight two-point conversion, Palisades trailed, 16-0.
The worth of a good punter's leg has not been exactly determined, but it might go for upwards of $25 a pound. With Glazer's leg this season, you might say that the pound has been devalued.
In his team's opening game against North Torrance, which resulted in a 23-14 win for the Normans, Glazer was his old self and averaged 44 yards on his punts. But in the second game, a 17-3 defeat of Harvard, he had to kick into the wind on each of his three punts, and his average dropped below 40 yards. Going into the Palisades game, his average was just under 35 yards, far below par for him.
There's a good reason for the dip. Last year Glazer's sole duty was to punt. This year he is also a starting linebacker and has played a little at fullback. He said that his additional tasks have probably affected his concentration when he kicks but that he is getting better on his punts.
"I'm doing OK," he said, "but I have to get into the flow of kicking again. I have to get my mind back into it. And I think in the last game, against Palisades, I started getting into the flow."
If his average is down, his kicks still go way up in the air, hanging there long enough for Beverly Hills tacklers to get down under them and prevent long returns.
"Nobody runs them back," Stansbury said, adding that with Glazer as his punter, "we haven't had anyone run it back more than five yards."
Stansbury said that Glazer has also improved on his efforts to punt the ball so that it goes out of bounds deep in opponents' territory.