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With Talent Like This, Put His Name in Lights : Barragan Shines on Offense, Defense

August 28, 1994|SEAN WATERS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Linemen rarely make headlines. But when they do, they like sportswriters to get their names right.

Last season, linemen Steve Barragan of Fremont High was selected to the City Section 3-A Division first team by the Amateur Athletic Foundation and local sportswriters. Unfortunately, the selection committee got his first name wrong.

"Please don't call me Mike," Barragan said. "I got a lot of abuse."

After the mistake appeared in print, Barragan was teased by his high school teachers and classmates. "I was teased as soon as I walked into class," he said. "They would say, 'Hey, Mike, you're late for class.' "

No one, however, questioned his name or talents on the football field. Barragan was the team's leading blocker and co-most valuable player on defense.

"He's the most tenacious player I've ever coached," Fremont Coach Taja Rodisha said. "The cat is awesome."

Rodisha is not alone in his evaluation of Barragan. Stacked on his desk are letters and phone messages from college recruiters around the country. Among the schools recruiting Barragan are UCLA, USC, Arizona, Colorado, and Southern Methodist.

"We don't care if his name is Steve or Mike," one recruiter said.

Last season, the 6-2, 257-pound Barragan played strongside tackle and defensive end.

His main duty on offense was protecting the backside of quarterback William Yates, who often scrambled out of the pocket.

Said Barragan: "Blocking for Will was kind of exciting because we never knew where he was going to be. Our job was to give him enough time to scramble."

For the most part, the offensive line succeeded. Yates threw for more than 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns and the Pathfinders posted a school-record 11 wins. Their breakdown came in the City 3-A title game when San Pedro humbled Fremont, 31-7.

"San Pedro was bad ," Barragan said. "First of all, they were big and they used good technique. I was so disappointed we lost that game."

While his season didn't end to his liking, Barragan did have his share of highlights. His brightest moment came in a nonleague game against Palm Desert.

With the Pathfinders trailing 10-0 in the third quarter, Barragan broke past the blocker shortly after the snap. Instead of trying to sack the quarterback, Barragan read the play as a sweep and followed the tailback after he took the handoff. Barragan wrestled the ball away from the tailback, broke three tackles and ran 72 yards for a touchdown. Fremont won 21-10.

Barragan's name was prominently reported in the game story.

"It's a lineman's dream to score a touchdown," said Barragan, who also scored a touchdown on an interception as a sophomore. "Usually, the defensive backs and linebackers score all the touchdowns on defense."

Barragan, however, will get more opportunities to handle the ball in 1994. The Pathfinders are moving their colossal tackle to tight end. When Barragan received his playbook, he was counting the number of plays where he could get the ball.

"Our coaches want to get him the ball more often," Rodisha said. "He's a tremendous athlete. He's a monster with quick feet. He can play wherever he wants."

Said Barragan: "In passing leagues, the coaches saw I had good hands and decided to give me a chance. I'm working on my touchdown dance."

When he is not catching passes and dancing, Barragan will be blocking for untested quarterback Robert Loera, who is a traditional dropback passer. "It's going to be a slower offense with Robert in," he said. "We're just going to drop back and block."

It might be mundane compared to blocking for Yates, but Barragan will do anything to help his team win.

"Last season, we had two players carrying the team, Yates and Andre Johnson offensively, and we had a great defense," Barragan said. "This season we have six or seven Andres who can catch the ball, and Robert can throw."

And don't forget Barragan. That's Steve, not Mike.

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