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Freedom Bowl : Leomiti Watches Weight; Defense Takes Pounding : San Diego State: At 387 pounds, is he too much of a good thing? Coaches don't think so.

December 25, 1991|DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Carson Leomiti was supposed to be too big, too slow and too stupid to make it in college or in football. Friends in his hometown of Carson told Leomiti he'd be home from San Diego State in a year after he flunked out or got married.

"That's the stereotype of the Samoan in our community," Leomiti said.

Even his parents were skeptical that their son could survive in college.

"They just didn't think I could do it," he said. "They raised me with a lot of negative reinforcement."

Leomiti, a redshirt sophomore guard, is sorry to disappoint his fans, but he's already dispelled the last two parts of the stereotype.

After a slow start on the football field, he has become one of the Aztecs' best offensive linemen and a defensive lineman's worst nightmare. Just ask 1990 Outland Trophy winner Russell Maryland. Leomiti also took awhile adjusting to life as a student-athlete, but he said things are getting a little easier and his 3.0 grade-point average this semester is proof of that.

And his size? That problem has not been so easy.

There is no getting around the fact that Leomiti is big. He always has been bigger than everyone else--he weighed over 300 pounds in high school.

The question is, how big is too big? Everyone, including Leomiti, will tell you that his current weight of 387 pounds, on a 6-foot-3 frame, is too heavy. Even William (The Refrigerator) Perry might be under 387.

But somehow, Leomiti still is able to play at an extremely high level.

"He's amazing, the way he can pull out and do all the things that he does on the football field," said Dave Ohton, SDSU's strength coach. "He does things that a 270-pound guard can do."

Said Brett Ingalls, the Aztecs' offensive line coach: "He can do what we ask him to do at that weight. In fact, he's had a hell of a year for us."

But Ingalls said Leomiti's ability to function at such a high weight might hinder his resolve to take pounds off.

"Carson's always been a big person and he's been able to do well as a big person, so maybe he feels there's not as much urgency for him to lose weight," Ingalls said.

If Leomiti ever needs to be reminded of the urgency, his support staff will do it for him. SDSU trainer Brian Barry, Ohton, Ingalls and Coach Al Luginbill probably could go to work for Jenny Craig if they needed another line of work.

They constantly monitor Leomiti's diet and check his weight, although they can only do so much.

"He can get away from you for a weekend," Ohton said. "There have been times he's left here on Friday weighing 341 and by the time we see him on Monday, he's around 360."

How can Leomiti put on 20 pounds in a matter of days?

Easy. Lot's of rice, soy sauce, ketchup, chicken and hamburgers--Leomiti's favorite foods.

His favorite dish?

"Rice and chicken," he said. "I can eat a full pot of rice with just one piece of chicken. I love it because it fills you up."

His eating habits don't help, either. Some days, he won't eat breakfast and he'll have only a light lunch. By the time he gets a chance to eat a big meal, it will be 11 or 12 p.m. After eating, Leomiti usually goes right to bed.

"I have to kick that habit," he said.

Ohton and a nutritionist have tried to put Leomiti on a diet that includes less fatty foods and more vegetables and fruit. But Ohton understands what Leomiti is up against.

"He's never been told not to eat," Ohton said. "And that's just part of his (Samoan) culture."

At times, the diet has worked. Leomiti was down to 335 during last season, and this season he has been close to 335.

But now, Leomiti weighs as much as ever. And his support staff worries as much as ever.

"Whenever he gets that high, we worry about his health,"' Barry said. "When he's real heavy, we worry about his ability to protect himself and to injure others."

Said Ohton: "The guy's got a huge body. When you're active, the body's got to work extra hard to pump blood into that heart."

Leomiti does not deny that he is a tad chunkier than he should be, but he claims that part of his problem is psychological.

"When I first came here, they were saying I need to do this about my weight," he said. "I had never thought about it before. That kind of affected me."

But Leomiti said he doesn't feel his extra weight affects him on the field. "When I'm out there, I don't really feel it, but when I see films, that's where the difference comes," he said. "Films don't lie. Films catch everything."

But the films came close to lying last year.

"We'd be watching films and we couldn't tell the difference between me and Jim Jennings when we were in our stance," Leomiti said. "I'd stand up and say, 'Oh, that's me. That's my number.' This year, I can tell it's me right away."

Leomiti is aware that the more weight he carries, the less chance he has of advancing to the next level.

"I can be pretty good, but the only thing is, I have to keep my weight down," he said. "My coaches and friends have been telling me that."

And his teammates? Do they ever talk about his weight?

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