In three years as a starter at offensive tackle for the Pasadena High football team, Terry McDaniels admits that he has excelled partly because he has learned how to outsmart opponents.
"I've picked up a lot of tricks of the trade," he says. "I've learned how to psyche-out the defensive linemen."
Besides learning how to hold and not get caught, McDaniels said it is not unusual for him to tell opposing linemen what play is coming next, crack a joke or even sing to them.
Did he say sing ?
"I'm known for it," McDaniels says. "Sometimes it works. It throws their minds off the game. It shows them you're not worried about them."
Fortunately for McDaniels, he doesn't have to rely on ploys or tricks. At 6-5 and 250 pounds, he could probably get by on size alone.
But size is not the only reason McDaniels has established himself as one of the premier college offensive line prospects on the West Coast.
No, it is not every 17-year-old, 250-pound high school lineman who can also run the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds and bench press 370 pounds.
"He's the unusual kind of lineman who can run people down from behind," said scout Dick Lascola of the Fallbrook-based Scouting Evaluation Assn.
Added Pasadena Coach Gary Griffiths: "He's got such a good combination of things. He's got size. He's got speed. He's got strength. He's also got a 3.1 grade-point average and he's one of the most coachable kids in our program."
No wonder he was listed high on preseason college scouting lists, including Houston-based scout Max Emfinger's national top 200 and Lascola's top prospects in Southern California.
McDaniels has been a standout since his sophomore year when he earned second-team All-San Gabriel Valley honors.
The recruiting pace picked up before his senior year.
"Right before the start of the season it was getting out of control, but once the season started it sort of died down," he said.
McDaniels said part of the reason why the recruiting has slowed of late is because he has narrowed his list of possible colleges considerably. He said the front-runners are USC, UCLA, Washington and Arizona. "I will definitely stay on the West Coast," he said.
Although he also starts at defensive tackle, McDaniels has been recruited mostly as an offensive tackle.
"He has more experience on offense," Griffiths said. "I think he has to learn to play on defense a little better. I think the thing that impresses college coaches is his speed."
McDaniels would rather play another position.
"I always wanted to be a fullback because I love to run with the ball and I've got good speed," McDaniels said. "But people see my size and immediately they say, 'Put him on the line.' "
Besides, McDaniels said that playing football is simply a means toward a college education.
"I want to go on to the pro level, but my main goal is to get my education."
Motivation has been difficult for him.
"It's just what I have to do to be good," he said. "I'm a lazy person. I hate working and I hate studying, but I still have a B average."
McDaniels said a lot of people probably think that, because of his size and other attributes, he hasn't had to work hard at succeeding in football. But he assures that success has not come easily.
In fact, he said success has become more difficult lately.
"I feel it's gotten harder because you have to live up to certain standards that people expect from you," McDaniels said.
He said it is not so much the competition that he has found difficult.
"Once I realized that the competition wasn't so tough, it was my technique that was the hardest part," McDaniels said.
Griffiths said he has noticed improvements in the lineman's technique since he joined the Pasadena varsity.
"I think he has learned to use his body better," Griffiths said. "I think he's gained a great deal of confidence and that's just part of the normal maturation process."
McDaniels realizes that he will have to improve his technique even more to excel at the college level.
"My defensive coach always gets on me for not going face-to-face with people. I have a habit of not looking (at opponents). That's my main flaw."
On the other hand, he said he has also learned how to rely on his natural instincts better.
"I made a lot of mistakes last season because I thought instead of reacting," McDaniels recalled. "So this year I'm reacting to the ball a lot more. If I see the ball (on the ground), I'll fall on it right away."
That was never more evident than in Pasadena's game against St. Francis on Sept. 16 when McDaniels recovered two fumbles for touchdowns--the first of his high school career.
He also said he has improved his speed and adds that may have a lot to do with his competing for the school's track team.
Unlike most big linemen, McDaniels is not a shot-putter or discus thrower. His specialties are the hurdles--the 110-yard highs and the 330-yard intermediates. He is even hoping to add the mile relay to his list of events next season.
Athletic ability runs in the family. McDaniels has a 21-year-old brother, Kevin, who played football in high school, and another, Vincent, 19, who competed in football and track.
"I'm the only one who has stuck with it," McDaniels says. "Vincent is an artist and Kevin just works. But we all like to stay in shape."
For Terry, there is no better way to stay in shape during the off-season than to compete in track. But while he says he enjoys track, it is football that he is emphasizing the most.
"That's where my future is," he said. "If I was 225 (pounds) I'd be better in track, but that's not me. In football I also know the little secrets to get me by."
No, it doesn't hurt to know a few tricks of the trade.