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The 'Best Back in the Conference' Is Still Raising Kane on the Gridiron for CSUN

November 20, 1986|MIKE HISERMAN | Times Staff Writer

It's midway through the second quarter and Cal State Northridge and Cal Lutheran are locked in a scoreless football game. Each team's offense is acting as a boomerang. For every play that goes forward, one goes backward.

After a short punt gives Northridge possession near midfield, Coach Bob Burt decides that his struggling team needs to start raising a little Kane--Mike Kane.

The first play is a screen pass to Kane good for 11 yards. The next is a Kane run over right tackle good for seven. On the following play, Kane takes the ball up the middle, breaks a tackle near the line of scrimmage and rambles 39 yards for a touchdown.

Teammate's Hug

In the end zone, Kane turns, brushes off the excited hug of a teammate, and flips the ball to an official.

There would be no celebration spike of the ball for Kane.

He walked back near the huddle where Mike Doan was lining up the team for the PAT. Then he turned to leave the field, thought better of it, returned to the huddle, and got sick.

No big deal. Kane says it happens just about every time he has busted a big play for a touchdown.

In other words, it has happened a lot.

Kane leads the Western Football Conference in scoring with 90 points and his career total of 3,417 yards rushing is enough to make any opposing coach's stomach turn.

Cal Lutheran had the WFC's toughest defense against the run before playing Northridge. The Kingsmen were giving up an average of 125 yards a game on the ground to each opposing team. Kane rushed for 120.

Afterward, Cal Lutheran Coach Bob Shoup called Kane "the best back in the conference."

"No one is as good all around as he is," Shoup said. "He plays on the punt team, he catches the ball, he blocks, he's durable, he can run inside and outside. . . . "

Get the picture? Probably not a true one unless you've seen Kane play.

He is 5-10, 185 pounds and about as elusive as a Frigidaire. His critics say he would have a tough time winning a race against a dairy cow.

Actually, Kane has not been timed lately in the 40-yard dash. Coach Burt said he sees no need in pulling out a stop watch.

'Fast Enough for Me'

"I'm sure he doesn't run a 4.5, but I've never seen him get caught from behind, either," Burt said. "That's fast enough for me."

It wasn't fast enough for major college recruiters, however, who snubbed Kane's achievements in high school.

Kane went to St. Francis High in La Canada where he was All-Southern Section, a Catholic All-American and Most Valuable Player in the Del Rey League his senior year. He ran for 1,115 yards, scored 12 touchdowns and capped his high school career with a 225-yard rushing performance in his final game.

There was nothing left for him to do but wait by the phone for all those major college scholarship offers to roll in.

He got four calls--from Glendale, Pierce and Pasadena community colleges, and from Northridge.

"The one thing Division I recruiters don't measure is the size of a kid's heart," said Brian Fogarty, Kane's high school coach. "In Mike's case, that certainly made up for anything he lacked in size and speed."

Said Kane: "It was disappointing. I thought I was good enough to help a lot of teams. I guess I believed more in myself than they did."

Kane wasn't exactly an overnight success at Northridge. In fact, he was sixth on the depth chart at the start of his freshman season. The first time his number was called in a game, he went left and everybody else went right.

But when starting tailback Eric Davis injured his knee just before half time of Northridge's third game of the season, Kane took over and rushed for 103 yards in the second half. He's been the starter ever since.

Mike Kane and his twin brother, Ed, were born in Pasadena, the first and second sons of Patrick and Brenda Kane, Irish immigrants.

Patrick and Brenda were at one time next-door neighbors in the small town of Bray, just outside of Dublin. Patrick's two favorite sports when he was growing up were soccer and boxing.

His two oldest sons grew up with the same passions.

Mike and Ed took boxing lessons in Arcadia from former professional featherweight Frank Muche. They were good enough to box on a youth sport television show when they were 11 years old. They both won.

And when Muche had to close his boxing club, the brothers simply turned their attention to soccer.

Played Soccer as Youth

As seventh-graders, Mike and Ed played for the local youth soccer team. Mike led the entire AYSO conference in scoring, but his brother was the one who made the all-star team.

"He was really mad," said Ed, who plays soccer for Cal Poly Pomona. "It was a political thing. A lot of coaches' sons made it, and Mike didn't. He wasn't going to put up with that. He's the kind of guy who likes to see results."

So when Ed went to Bosco Tech to play soccer, Mike went to St. Francis to play football.

Both schools are in the Del Rey League, but since Bosco Tech doesn't have a football team, they met on the playing field only once--in soccer.

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