Can you Say Iemsisanith?
Not many can, so before we talk about Say Iemsisanith, Anaheim High School's outstanding outside linebacker, senior class president and all-around good guy, let's get his name right:
OK, on with the particulars.
Iemsisanith is a 5-foot-9, 155-pound native of Laos whose first name, Saykham (Say for short), means "chain of gold."
Like thousands of Southeast Asians, Iemsisanith and his family fled their homeland in 1976 seeking an escape from communist rule.
After a two-year stay in Thailand, the Iemsisaniths--brothers Chantha, 11, Chanathala, 14, and Saythong, 16; mother, Bouasay, and father, Vangso--came to the United States, settling first with relatives in Buena Park before moving to an apartment in Anaheim.
Say was 5 when the family arrived in the United States. His first contact with football was through television.
"I had no idea what it was," he said. "I saw it on TV and I was like, 'Oh, man! I'll never play that sport!' I was scared because all the guys were hitting each other."
With a wry smile, he added: "I love hitting now."
Friday night against Kennedy, Iemsisanith had three sacks--bringing his season total to eight--including one that caused a fumble and led to Anaheim's first touchdown. But the Colonists fell, 22-20, their third loss in as many games.
Iemsisanith, a three-year varsity player, said time and experience will help the Colonists, who start eight underclassmen.
"We just need time," Iemsisanith said.
Time--and lots of it--is what Anaheim Coach Raul Victores thought Iemsisanith would need when he first met the boy as a freshman. Their initial meeting went like this:
Iemsisanith rode up to Victores, then the Anaheim freshman coach, on his bicycle. He told Victores he wanted to be a tailback, but that he would have to be late to football practice every day because of his job at the school library.
"I'm saying to myself, 'Geez, this'll never work,' " Victores said. "The kid was very small, he wanted to play tailback and he had to miss part of practice every day because of a librarian job?
"But he turns out to be one of the toughest, greatest kids I've ever coached."
And one of the most generous. Iemsisanith, who has volunteered his time at a local preschool and hopes some day to work with children, sends part of his paycheck from his current job at a pizzeria to relatives in Laos every month.
After high school, he wants to enlist in the Marines or the Navy. In fact, he said if he could, he would be with the U.S. service personnel now in the Middle East.
"I want to serve my country," Iemsisanith said. "Back where I came from, there were always wars and stuff. I wish I could've done something to have changed all that. I wish I could have done something important, but I couldn't. So I want to do something for my country now."
Add Say: Iemsisanith, who has a sense of humor about his first name and the fun people have with it, has heard them all.
His favorites are 'Say what?" or "Oh, Say can you see . . . "
Football game announcers have had particular fun. At Anaheim home games, Iemsisanith is now known as "Mr. Say," or "Mr. Say Hey."
What? Three weeks into the prep season and still no litigation?
Because of the rash of lawsuits between the Southern Section and booster clubs last year, the Southern Section is presenting a booster club orientation meeting at 6:30 Tuesday night at Tustin High School.
All booster-types are invited--with or without their attorneys.
Derek Sparks rushes for 281 yards and three touchdowns in his Mater Dei debut? In the immortal words of Gomer Pyle, "Shazaaaam!"
Woodbridge defensive tackle Dae Kim is 5-4, 160, but he held his own on the line Friday night in the Warriors' 23-22 victory over Trabuco Hills.
Playing against offensive linemen in the 6-3, 230 range, Kim is quick enough to slip past them.
He's strong too. Kim, a senior, bench-presses 300 pounds and can squat 410.
"They call me Ironhead," Kim said.
Barbie Ludovise's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Readers may reach Ludovise by writing her at The Times Orange County Edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626 or calling (714) 966-5847.