Center Won Lee has heard all the jokes that go with being the smallest player on the Ventura College offensive line.
The unusual thing, however, is that the player dubbed the "midget in the middle" by his teammates is hardly puny at 6 feet, 228 pounds. Maybe he only seems small surrounded by 6-6, 280-pound freshman right tackle Erin Powers or Kevin Fanter, a 6-5, 270-pound sophomore right guard.
Calling the Pirates' offensive line big is an understatement. Ventura has 6 offensive linemen who weigh more than 270 pounds.
The key question for Coach Phil Passno, however, is whether all this bulk will translate into victories.
"We realized that we had skill-position people--tailbacks, five sophomore receivers and a returning quarterback," Passno said. "That made it real important to make sure we had big people to go along with them."
Ventura has experience to go with the size on the line. At guard, Sean Hager (6-2, 270) and Fanter are both returning sophomores. And they are quick sophomores at that.
"In most cases, big people are not that quick," offensive coordinator Dick James said . "Everything is relative, but they are very mobile for their size. They also have good height, which gives them leverage to extend through people."
James, who was the Stanford offensive line coach from 1980-82--when John Elway was the quarterback--is part of the reason Passno was able to put together such a big and powerful line. He used James as an incentive for players to come to Ventura.
"I told them he was going to be our coach and they were all excited about that," Passno said.
The funny thing, however, is that it's James who is excited. A former head coach at Ventura in the '70s, James hasn't seen such big linemen since he left Stanford. "There were lots of years at Ventura when we didn't have anybody over 230 pounds," James said. "We're just blessed now with the right mix at the right time."
Passno said that Powers, who looks bigger than his listed size of 6-6, 280, ended up at Ventura probably because he was overlooked while playing at Nordhoff, a relatively small high school. "I don't think people are aware of how good a player Erin can be," he said.
Powers, like several others, came to Ventura to gain college experience before tackling a Division I or Division II school. Others wanted to improve their grades before making the transition.
"With a good, solid line like we've got, you don't have to worry about someone not completing an assignment because of lack of size," Hager said.
Powers leads a group of five freshman linemen. The others include Leonard Graham (6-3, 284), Alan Sharon (6-2, 251), Joey Henry (5-11, 300) and Lee. Passno also has Scott Patchett, a 6-3, 245-pound freshman tight end from Hueneme High.