Fearing for his father's life, Paul Rezac instinctively waded into the fracas when he saw several men attacking him. Rezac punched one of the attackers while his father fended off the others.
What Rezac, who was 2 years old at the time, didn't realize was that his father was only acting.
Not until Rezac was 4 did he understand that his father, Ron, didn't mind being attacked. As an actor in the play, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," Ron Rezac was beaten up every night--on stage.
As soon as Rezac was old enough to act, he joined his parents in the theater. He started with small parts, then graduated to speaking roles.
At 17, Rezac is a stage veteran, having acted, sang or danced in dozens of plays. He performs with his father and mother, Sherry, who also directs productions for the Plaza Players Theater, Ventura County's oldest nonprofit community theater group.
Acting is just one of Rezac's interests, however. He is also a running back and the leading rusher for St. Bonaventure High, a parochial school in Ventura with an enrollment of 540.
In the past 2 games, Rezac has gained 275 yards in 37 carries and scored 5 touchdowns. He is the main reason for St. Bonaventure's 2-0 Tri-Valley League record.
But when it comes to choosing between acting and playing football, Rezac has no conflicts.
"I've committed myself to football this season more than ever before," said Rezac, a senior. "I stay after practice, run extra drills. I'm willing to do whatever it takes this year to win."
While football is Rezac's latest love, he was acting before he could walk. He played a baby in the play, "Fiddler on the Roof," when he was just 2 months old.
Rezac graduated to speaking parts at 6 and has worked regularly in community theater productions ever since. He is equally adept with drama or musical comedy and, just last summer, Rezac played the man-eating plant in the play, "Little Shop of Horrors."
Rezac's parents were involved in community theater before Paul was born. Ron and Sherry Rezac met 20 years ago while working on a play.
"It's an exciting activity for us and it doesn't cost anything," said Sherry, a veteran of about 70 community theater productions in Ventura County.
The Rezac family, like most of the approximately 200 members of the Plaza Players Theater, builds sets, repairs costumes . . . basically performs whatever task is needed.
Sherry Rezac has both directed and acted with her son in plays. She is Paul's most ardent supporter and his most respected critic.
"He has a really good stage presence and charisma, which a lot of people don't have," Sherry said. "He has a lot of potential in the theater because Paul can sing, act and dance."
For now, however, acting remains just a hobby for Rezac. He plans to pursue football after graduating from high school.
"It's fun to entertain an audience when you're performing," Rezac said. "It gives you a feeling of superiority because you know what's going to happen and the audience doesn't."
Rezac, who has rushed for 675 yards and 8 touchdowns in 112 carries this season, is equally sure of himself on the football field. The acting background helps him on the field, where the lights go on and a solid performance is worthy of applause.
"On stage you often have to improvise if somebody forgets their lines," he said. "It's the same in football, where you have to be able to find the holes and finish the play if it breaks down.
"The coaches tell me you have to act in football as well--like when you're faking a run on a play-action pass. You have to be able to memorize plays like you have to memorize lines."
Rezac had the Moorpark defense mesmerized Oct. 14 when he scored 3 touchdowns and gained 106 yards in St. Bonaventure's league-opening 21-13 victory. Rezac, 5-feet, 10 inches, 190-pounds, followed that game with a season-high 169 yards in 17 carries last week during a 35-6 win over Bishop Diego.
"He has great intensity and a strong desire to hit people when he's running," Coach Damian Wilkerson said. "Defensive backs try to tackle him and they end up on their backs."
Wilkerson took over at St. Bonaventure this season after spending the past 5 years as the junior varsity coach of teams that went 23-25-2.
After a shaky start in which the Seraphs lost 4 of their first 5 games, St. Bonaventure (3-4, 2-0 in league) found its stride in time for league play. However, the Seraphs have yet to face the league's top 2 teams--Oak Park and defending champion Carpinteria.
Wilkerson expects the Seraphs to compete for the league title. And Rezac is just one of the reasons for the optimism.
Rezac, who also plays linebacker, and tailback Chris Gaston, who has 254 yards in 55 carries and 3 touchdowns, anchor the offense. Gaston played tight end last year and led the team with 27 receptions for 450 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Gaston supports his teammate with blocking on the field, but likes to tease Rezac about his acting off the field.
"He likes to ham it up in class and show off with his acting," Gaston said. "Seeing him doesn't make me want to go into acting."
But Gaston shares with Rezac and the rest of the St. Bonaventure players the goal of earning a curtain call--a berth in the Southern Section playoffs.
Break a leg.