Brian Madlangbayan was up to his neck in crushed ice.
At least it seemed that way earlier this week as the 5-foot-5 1/2 Madlangbayan sat huddled in the corner of the Occidental College training room, his feet submerged in an industrial-size plastic bucket.
Madlangbayan, a freshman tailback from Oceanside, was nursing his latest injuries--a pair of sprained ankles he sustained during Occidental's 47-41 victory over Claremont last Saturday.
Madlangbayan scored five touchdowns against the Stags, including the game-winner on a one-yard run in overtime. He finished with 187 yards rushing in 37 carries--both season highs--and scored on a 76-yard kickoff return.
Occidental improved to 5-2 overall and 4-0 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play. The Tigers, who have won six of the past seven conference championships, will play Redlands (6-1, 4-0) on Saturday at Redlands for the SCIAC title.
And, as he has done ever since All-SCIAC running back Gary Little suffered a broken leg in the preseason, Madlangbayan is expected to carry much of the offensive load.
Madlangbayan, the Tigers' shortest running back in Dale Widolff's nine seasons as coach, has scored 10 touchdowns and is the SCIAC's leading rusher, averaging 122.7 yards a game.
Like the Occidental coaching staff, Madlangbayan is comfortable with his performance.
His 170-pound body, however, does not feel so good.
"I was average size during Pop Warner (youth football competition), but when I got to high school everybody else grew and I didn't," Madlangbayan said as he stepped slowly out of the ice bucket. "As you can see, I take a lot of pounding."
Indeed, along with his sprained ankles, Madlangbayan has sustained a pulled hip flexor, sprained neck and bruised knee this season.
"The way Brian plays, he takes a lot of hits," Widolff said. "He doesn't budge anybody, so when he gets hit, he feels it."
Despite his injuries, Madlangbayan has missed only one game and has rushed for more than 100 yards in five of the six games in which he has played.
He missed a game against La Verne while recovering from a sprained neck suffered against Azusa Pacific and was limited to 47 yards in 15 carries against Whittier while nursing the hip flexor he sustained in a season-opening defeat against the University of San Diego.
Otherwise, Madlangbayan has been unstoppable.
"You might not be able to tell by looking at him, but Brian has great strength," said Bill Dobson, Occidental offensive coordinator. "Right before he scored the winning touchdown against Claremont, he took four guys and carried them five yards from the six (-yard line) to the one."
Madlangbayan's success has happened surprisingly quickly.
Madlangbayan, who is of Filipino ancestry, rushed for 1,729 yards and scored 30 touchdowns last season to help El Camino High win the San Diego Section 2-A Division championship.
Hawaii wanted him to walk on as a flanker, St. Mary's offered a partial athletic scholarship and Columbia--which appealed to the student in Madlangbayan--was too far away from home. So Madlangbayan chose Occidental, which does not offer athletic scholarships, for the academics.
With Little returning after a freshman season in which he gained 893 yards, Madlangbayan figured that he would see limited action.
"I was just looking to contribute," he said. "I knew Gary was all-conference and I didn't expect to come in and take his position.
"If Gary needed a breather, I could come in and give the team some quality time."
But Madlangbayan's situation changed suddenly when Little's season ended before it even began in a scrimmage at Santa Barbara City College.
Madlangbayan shot to the top of the depth chart and rushed for 162 yards in 28 carries in the Tigers' 20-12 loss at San Diego.
Madlangbayan says his vision is his best asset. But his size also makes him difficult to defend against.
"At times, I can get lost in a crowd pretty well," he said. "Sometimes it's hard for them to find me."
Occidental players, especially the offensive linemen, make it a point to know Madlangbayan's whereabouts before, during and after a play.
"Essentially, I have eight older brothers that are taking care of me," Madlangbayan said. "When I'm tackled, one of those guys is always there throwing people off me to get me out from under the pile."
With Little due to return next season, Widolff's staff might have to rework its one-back offense to utilize Little and Madlangbayan together.
Little is slashing and elusive; Madlangbayan runs right at defenders.
"We have some options," Dobson said. "Do you go run-and-shoot, wishbone or split back like the 49ers?
"Whatever we do, with those two guys, it's going to be fun."