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FOOTBALL '92 : Last Muster for Farmer : Recalcitrant Back Brings Sizable Talent to Northridge

September 03, 1992|RICH TOSCHES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Some of the football coaches who have tried and failed horribly over the past seven years to rein in a wild horse named Jamal Farmer say that Farmer is self-centered, arrogant and just plain full of himself.

Other coaches say Farmer is just plain full of himself, arrogant and self-centered.

And they see trouble in the near future for Cal State Northridge coaches, who suddenly find themselves as caretakers of this wild horse.

But Bob Burt, the head coach at Northridge, sees something else in the near future. He sees Farmer taking a handoff and erupting to full speed with several strides of his massive legs. He hears a collision and sees a defender, some wide-eyed, would-be linebacker from Southern Utah or San Francisco State launched into the air, his helmet now turned backward, shoulder pads jerked down around his waist and his feet somehow jammed into just one shoe, soaring over the rusted chain-link fence that surrounds the pasture-like North Campus Stadium, high over the dirt parking lots and halfway across campus, landing heavily near the science building just as Farmer struts into the end zone.

Or something like that.

"Let's just say I'm excited," Burt said. "Real excited."

With good reason. Farmer (5-foot-11, 225 pounds) has blasted defenders into next week at all levels of football, from youth leagues to college. For the past three years, he did it to solid Division I college teams such as Brigham Young and San Diego State as one of the most prolific running backs in the history of the University of Hawaii.

Pro scouting combines seldom write reports on underclassmen, but both the National Football League Scouting Combine in New York and the National Football Scouting Service in Tulsa, Okla., said a running back with Farmer's credentials undoubtedly will be scouted during the 1992 season.

And this season Farmer will be pounding a football into far lesser opponents than he is used to facing, football players who tried lifting weights once but found them too heavy.

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Farmer sits in the CSUN locker room, unthinkingly rubbing a hand over a biceps muscle that is roughly the circumference of a tuna, a muscle that helps him snap 450 pounds off the bench-press rack and jolt it easily off his chest.

This body has caused some concern too. Three times at Hawaii he was tested for steroid use. Negative. Plain, old-fashioned weightlifting, he said.

"At Hawaii, they kept calling them random drug tests, and every time they picked me," he said. "When they said, 'Random,' I knew that meant me."

He is asked about his final college football season.

And he smiles.

"I don't know," he says. "I just don't know what I might do. Maybe 2,000 yards. Maybe 20 touchdowns. I think that might be realistic. Maybe more than that."

CSUN will play 10 games. Farmer knew that, of course, when he settled on those numbers. Two hundred yards and two touchdowns per game. And perhaps a linebacker stumbling around groggily after each contest with a frightening headache.

"Some runners hit you," Burt said. "Jamal rattles your jawbone. Geez, can he hit!"

Farmer also is able, it must be noted, to run around people. He rushed for more than a mile in only 27 games for Hawaii, and you don't do that by plowing into every defender. At Granada Hills High, Farmer started for three years and helped the team to the 1987 City 4-A Division championship with a victory over Carson. In Granada Hills' pass-oriented attack that year, he rushed for a team-high 788 yards and caught 26 passes for 260 yards.

Recruited by UCLA, Arizona, Oregon State and others, Farmer used one of his NCAA-approved recruiting visits to check out Hawaii. He had, he said, no intention of going to school there. But a free weekend in Hawaii is a free weekend in Hawaii.

He liked it. He stayed.

Moved from slotback to tailback by Coach Bob Wagner during his redshirt freshman year, Farmer exploded in his first season in 1989, setting an NCAA freshman record for rushing touchdowns with 18. His efforts, which included a freshman school-record 986 yards rushing, a team-leading 116 points, the No. 7 ranking in the nation with a 10.55-points-per-game scoring average and a stunning 242-yard rushing performance against Air Force, boosted Hawaii to a 9-3 record. He was named the Western Athletic Conference freshman of the year, naturally.

As a sophomore, Farmer's output fell to 664 yards and nine touchdowns as he played less than he had as a freshman, down to half a game. Along the way, he was suspended for a couple of games. Last year, as a junior, the playing time continued to drop. He rushed for four touchdowns and 474 yards in Hawaii's first five games.

And then he quit. Eighteen points short of the school's all-time scoring record.

The parting, as they say, was amiable. Everyone was happy. The Hawaii coaches were happy to be rid of Farmer. And Farmer was happy to be rid of them.

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