Steve Dailey is a self-described "slap hitter," which should come as quite a surprise to Channel League running backs who have the imprint of his face mask embedded in their chests.
If Dailey is a slap hitter, they say, so is Mike Tyson.
The truth be told, Dailey really is a slap hitter. Every spring. He plays center field for Ventura High baseball team and hit .494 last season. But he had only two home runs.
Most of his heavy hitting is done as a linebacker in the fall, which is a major reason why the Cougars are seeded No. 2 as the Coastal Conference football playoffs begin Friday.
Dailey, who also is the placekicker and plays fullback, is regarded as one of the best defensive players in the county.
Coach Harvey Kochel said Dailey is above average as a kicker and a fullback but among the elite of linebackers. "When you put all of those things together, you have quite an all-around player," Kochel said.
Opposing coaches agree.
"We watched a lot of film of him," said George Machado, coach at Hueneme High. "I didn't look for his number. I just looked for the dirtiest uniform. That was him. It seems like he's everywhere."
Perhaps because he is. Scoring plays can be particularly exhausting for Dailey, who is usually implemented into the Cougars' offense as a blocker, or in short-yardage situations.
If he happens to score, as he has on six occasions this season, the 6-2, 210-pound senior must then bounce between the field and the sideline like a pinball.
He scores. Gets mobbed. Jogs to the bench to get a kicking tee. Jogs back. Kicks the extra point. Jogs back to the sideline to get the tee he uses to kick off. Kicks off. Runs downfield to help on the tackle. Plays linebacker.
The entire transition takes about five minutes--or about 15 seconds of game time. And the funny thing is, Dailey considers games a chance to rest.
"They're easier," he said of games. "Our own players hit real hard. Playing offense against our defense and defense against our offense is no fun. I get beat up. Coach Kochel doesn't give me any breaks in practice. It makes me better, but I'm also pretty beat up."
He delivers more punishment than he receives, however.
"You've gotta run away from him," Machado said, "because running at him is like running at a knife. He's gonna kill you."
Machado, whose Hueneme team tied Ventura for the Channel League title, said he is more impressed with Dailey's work ethic than his raw physical ability.
"He seems like a blue-collar athlete," Machado said. "He's a ham sandwich and a glass of milk."
Kochel said Dailey is deceivingly gifted. "He does so many things well, nothing stands out, but he's exceptionally fast, particularly for a linebacker, and he's extremely intelligent," he said.
While other players relax before and after practice, Kochel said, Dailey often can be found watching game films. And that's not all he studies. Dailey has a 3.55 grade-point average.
The combination of Dailey's football and baseball skills, plus his academic record, already have attracted the attention of a couple of prestigious universities--USC and Stanford.
Dailey has traditionally attended USC football games, but it was Trojan baseball Coach Mike Gillespie who made first contact with him last spring. Stanford is interested in Dailey as a football player.
Dailey, who was selected as one of the state's top underclassmen baseball players last season, would like to do both.
"I'm split," he said. "In baseball last year I got more recognition than I ever had, so it started me leaning that way. Then it was football season and like a new life."
Whichever he should decide, Kochel said Dailey will not soon be forgotten by the Ventura football coaches, but for reasons that have nothing to do with his athletic abilities.
"What I'll remember him for has nothing to do with football or baseball," Kochel said. "I'll remember him for two things. One, he is a real happy kid who seems to have a real joy for living. The other thing is, he never shuts up. He is always talking."
Machado is just happy that Dailey is, indeed, almost a memory.
"I'm just glad he's a senior," Machado said. "I'll probably go to his graduation, hand him a carnation and lead him out the door. As an opposing coach you love to see guys like him leave."