At 5-foot-5, Bobby Webster presents an elusive target for tacklers intent on knocking the number "6" off the back of his head, where it is sculpted in hair.
The 175-pound Glendale College running back has been barreling over or away from much larger opponents all season.
But when Webster is stopped and attempts to emerge from beneath a pileup, he cannot escape the grabbing and pinching that almost every ballcarrier expects--nor the greetings personalized for him.
"I can't repeat it for you in their exact words but it's pretty much, 'You little this, you little that. You Smurf, you gremlin,' " Webster said. "I take it as one big joke."
Webster, who has gained 667 yards and scored nine touchdowns, has helped Glendale to three consecutive victories after an 0-2 start. He is one of the main reasons Vaquero coaches and players are again smiling and thinking seriously about a Western State Conference championship. Glendale is 3-1 in conference play, tied with Moorpark for first in the WSC's Northern Division.
"It looks like we're starting to come together," Glendale Coach John Cicuto said. "It seems like we're just getting stronger."
Not coincidentally, so is Webster.
After gaining 91 and 77 yards in season-opening losses to Pasadena, then ranked fourth in the nation, and top-ranked Bakersfield, Webster has increased his workload each game.
* Webster carried 30 times for 143 yards and scored two touchdowns in Glendale's 21-12 victory over Los Angeles Southwest.
* He carried 33 times for 186 yards and scored four touchdowns in the Vaqueros' 37-27 win over Valley.
* Last week, in Glendale's 35-22 victory over Pierce, Webster carried 34 times for 170 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Cicuto likens Webster to another small runner--former USC tailback and Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett.
"Garrett would get in and out of trouble and you'd say to yourself, 'How did he do it?' " Cicuto said. "Bobby looks like he's stopped all the time, and then, boom, he's escaped."
Webster seems to thrive on hits rather than be punished by them. Contact that stops most backs in their tracks appears to propel Webster forward for extra yardage.
"He almost never is taken down on the first hit," said Jim Sartoris, who coaches the Glendale running backs. "He's built low to the ground and when he runs he's even lower. He takes a lot of hits off his shoulder pads and really bounces so they don't get to his legs very easily.
"He makes a lot of yards after he is initially hit. Usually, you think of a big back doing that, not a small one, so toughness is probably his No. 1 attribute."
Webster's toughness was not readily apparent when he arrived at Glendale by way of Pasadena High and Pasadena City College last spring.
Webster had played strong safety throughout high school and also was listed as a running back.
"They had me there so I could have a second position," Webster recalled. "Everyone knew I wasn't going to play."
Five games into his senior season, however, Webster took over for the injured starter and rushed for more than 1,024 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Buoyed by his success as a runner, Webster tried out at tailback last season at Pasadena.
"More people were going on (to higher levels) as short tailbacks than short defensive backs," he said.
But Webster left Pasadena after the preseason scrimmage, he said, because he was buried on the depth chart behind freshmen with more impressive high school credentials that had been accumulated in full senior seasons.
He enrolled at Glendale last spring and impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic in non-contact workouts.
Still, there were doubts about his size.
"With someone that small, you're never quite sure if they're going to be durable enough to take the pounding at this level," Sartoris said.
Webster opened the season behind sophomores Max Garcia and Curly Kirkpatrick, but it was clear after two games that Webster was the best runner.
Teaming with bullish fullback Wes Bender, Webster now provides the Vaqueros with one of the most potent backfields in the WSC.
"He worked extremely hard to get the opportunity," Cicuto said. "And he's not the type of kid who is ever going to relinquish it."
Cicuto is hoping that his team's collective attitude will mirror Webster's Saturday when the Vaqueros play winless Ventura (0-5) at Ventura High.
"The 0-5 really scares you," Cicuto said, dead serious. "Traditionally, they have a real strong program up there.
"I saw them against Southwest and said, 'God, I can't believe this team has not won a game.' There's always a chance a young team like ours will look at them and say, 'They must not be very good.' "
Webster, who also is one of the Vaqueros' most prolific cheerleaders, said he isn't about to let that happen.
Former UCLA standouts James McAlister and Kermit Johnson, former USC tailback Fred Crutchfield, current USC tailback Ricky Ervins and California tailback Anthony Wallace are some of the standout running backs from the Pasadena area who went on to successful careers at the Division I level.
Webster hopes to join that group when his Glendale career is over.
"I can't classify myself as being one of them yet," Webster said. "If I get there (to a Division I school), and I hope I do, then I can say I made it."