Cory Wayland of El Toro High School always thought his best chance of earning a college scholarship would be playing basketball.
Wayland played on youth traveling all-star teams and entered high school as a 6-foot 2-inch freshman. He was a starting forward on the Chargers' varsity as a sophomore.
But Wayland's plans changed during the summer before his junior season. By then, he had grown into a strapping 6-5, 220-pounder with good speed. Wayland had a meeting with Bob Johnson, El Toro football coach, that changed his life.
"Coach Johnson told me that I had a lot better shot of earning a college scholarship in football if I got serious and worked hard in the weight room," Wayland said.
"I was playing football and basketball, but basketball was always my favorite sport. I was starting on the varsity team and figured basketball would be my sport. But Coach Johnson was right."
Suddenly, Wayland's primary interests took a fast break toward football. He developed into an all-league defensive tackle despite playing in the shadow of Scott Spalding as a junior, and he has blossomed into a two-way starter as a senior.
Today, Wayland, 17, is an imposing figure at 6-5, 240 pounds. He added the responsibilities of offensive guard in the fifth week of the season, but there's no stopping him.
In the dual role, Wayland has developed a split personality. The basic requirement of a defensive tackle is aggressiveness. An offensive guard is a model of concentration.
"I get pretty fired up defensively," Wayland said. "Offensively, I stay pretty calm. You have to get your head into the game and concentrate on the plays. When I'm playing defense, all I do is read my opponent and hit.
"I'm a pretty low-key guy, but I prefer playing defense. No one pays much attention to an offensive lineman. A defensive lineman has more notoriety. You make some tackles and get some sacks."
Wayland has gained enough attention to get recruiting trips to USC, UCLA, Stanford, Washington and Colorado once the season ends. He'll play his final high school game at 7:30 Saturday night when El Toro (11-2) plays host to Los Alamitos (12-1) at Orange Coast College for the Southern Conference championship.
The Chargers will be making their second straight appearance in the title game, and Los Alamitos is playing for its first championship in 10 years.
When Wayland is playing defensive tackle, he'll likely be double teamed. Esperanza, the Chargers' first opponent in the playoffs, was the only team that used one blocker against him.
Offensively, Wayland will be blocking Eric Thompson, the Griffins' junior defensive guard. Wayland also will be pulling frequently when Charger quarterback Bret Johnson sprints to his right for roll-out pass plays.
"Cory is a big dude, but he's got to be pretty fast to lead the blocking on our roll outs," Bret Johnson said. "He doesn't do much talking. He's usually pretty low-key and kind of shy.
"He hasn't gotten much publicity, and I don't think he's ever gotten his picture in the paper. But he's one of the best players on our team."
After the Los Alamitos game, Wayland and Johnson will continue as teammates on the Chargers' basketball team. They report to practice Monday, and then will start against Inglewood on Tuesday in the first round of the San Dimas Tournament of Champions.
At least Wayland will have one more day of practice than he did last season before he played his first basketball game. The transition between sports isn't easy for him.
"I feel like I'm in pretty good shape, but I was really winded that first game last year," he said. "There are no breaks like football where you go back to a huddle. You're constantly running."
There's rarely a break for Wayland on the football field. The area between opposing linemen is often referred to as the trenches, where Wayland spends much of his time untangling himself from pile ups.
"The play is usually pretty clean in the pileups," he said. "Once in a while, you'll get some guy pinching your legs. (Free safety) Adam Brass was complaining about somebody from Santa Ana that was spitting on him last week."
Wayland is a physical player who uses upper body strength and powerful legs to neutralize opponents. He is considered a strong drive blocker.
He uses his upper body strength to extend his arms as a defensive tackle. He was named El Toro's defensive player of the game four times this season.
"Cory showed that he's a very unselfish player when he moved to offensive guard," Charger Coach Bob Johnson said. "I know he doesn't particularly like to play on the offensive line. It's a lot of extra work.
"We're asking him to make big-time efforts in the trenches in practice every day and then on game night. He's worked extremely hard."
Wayland is also an honor student and has qualified for admission to Stanford University. Tim Travers, El Toro basketball coach, said good grades come easy for Wayland.
"I think Cory has a photographic memory," Travers said. "I had him and Bret in the same class. Both got A's, but Bret really worked his tail off. Cory was pretty laid back. He came to class, took some notes and aced every test."
Travers thinks Wayland could have earned a college scholarship playing basketball.
"If Cory's body was trimmed to play basketball, he could earn a scholarship," he said. "He received a lot of letters from colleges until it was apparent that football was going to be his future.
"I'm not saying he would go to a big-time school, but he could play somewhere. There's no question about his love for basketball. He's a very dedicated player and a joy to coach. I feel lucky to coach someone like Cory."