SAN DIEGO — He is a bear of a freshman, lumbering around San Diego State like some sort of collegiate All-American waiting to happen.
La'Roi Glover is young (18), big (6 feet 2, 275 pounds) and precocious (he plays against the USCs and UCLAs while other freshmen struggle to learn scout team moves).
In other words, he is just what the Aztec coaches had hoped he would be.
Barry Lamb, SDSU defensive coordinator, calls Glover the biggest defensive recruiting coup in the four years the current coaching staff has been at the school.
Jamal Duff, who entered SDSU as a linebacker in 1990, was considered an impact player. And linebacker Fred Harris, the 1990 Louisiana High School player of the year, was certainly a big catch.
But Lamb still goes with Glover.
"First of all, because he's an in-county kid," Lamb said. "And we target in-county kids. That makes him a bigger recruit than one of the other high-profile guys we've signed."
That, and the fact that Glover can flat-out play.
During his senior season, Glover visited UCLA, Fresno State and Oregon State. He turned down Miami and Washington, among others.
Lamb and other Aztec coaches bird-dogged Glover for two years at Point Loma High, figuring as far back as Glover's junior year of high school that this was a kid who could step right onto a college field.
The biggest challenge would be enticing Glover to choose SDSU. They had an ace . . . an ally. They had signed his brother, Darcel, a year earlier.
The two have always been close. Darcel, 6-2, 235, is also a defensive lineman. He graduated from Point Loma a year ahead of La'Roi, although he didn't enroll in SDSU until last January. Aztec coaches figured a year off would allow him a chance to mature. Darcel joined the team last spring.
There had been indications that Darcel and La'Roi would become a package deal. In a game against University of San Diego High School two years ago, Darcel intercepted a pass and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown and La'Roi, who had been on the bench taking a breather, sprinted all the way into the end zone and tackled Darcel. The celebration had officially begun.
"Right then, I knew they were going to be inseparable," their mother, Dorothy, said. "When Darcel picked San Diego State, the handwriting was on the wall. La'Roi went to UCLA to visit, but I knew he wanted to follow his brother."
Dorothy Glover knew early on that her two sons were going to be football players.
"Very much," she said. "You could almost look at the boys and see it. People stressed boxing, but I thought that was a brutal sport. La'Roi had big hands. Darcel had inner strength. You just knew that they were going to be something."
Football made sense. Dorothy Glover's father-in-law, John, was on the governing board of the San Diego Pop Warner Assn. and her husband, Lawrence, was a coach.
La'Roi had always been strong. Darcel remembered the time his younger brother was standing in a pre-school line waiting to ride a tricycle.
"A kid jumped in front of him in line," Darcel recalled.
The tyke and the trike went flying.
La'Roi's first season came when he was eight, but he ended up sitting out the next year. He weighed 90 pounds by then--10 over the maximum weight.
But he was back on the field quickly, playing nose tackle for as long as Dorothy Glover can remember. And despite a tendency toward trouble, La'Roi had a gentle side that his mother treasured.
"What I like about him is that after he got through raking up an offensive lineman, he always helped him up," Dorothy Glover said. "His intent was never to put somebody out of the game."
The biggest problem early was channeling La'Roi's aggressive side out of the schools and onto the field. Dorothy Glover pulled her son out of Silver Gate Elementary School in Point Loma after an incident when he was in the sixth grade.
"He was playing baseball and a teacher called La'Roi out," Dorothy Glover said. "He wasn't out, and he picked up the base and threw it at a kid."
However, he missed his target.
"He accidentally knocked over a teacher," Dorothy said.
Now, while La'Roi is intentionally knocking over opponents, Darcel is on the sidelines. He is redshirting.
"In the beginning it was difficult," Darcel said. "I was anxious to play and be a part of the team. But I settled down. I realize my time will come."
Meanwhile, La'Roi, a Parade High School All-American who also finished second in the state's heavyweight wrestling division last year, moved into the forefront almost immediately.
"He's really progressing nicely," Lamb said. "He's gotten more playing time in every game we've had. He's taking reps with the first group in practice. Here we are in mid-season and he is in a position to challenge for the starting spot."
To La'Roi, challenges have come in different forms.
After Silver Gate Elementary School, he eventually ended up at Gomper's. He found trouble there, too, when a boy taunted him during a rough period in his life.