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CHRIS FOSTER

Flab Five Can Really Air It Out

October 11, 1994|CHRIS FOSTER

This is a public service announcement for motorists in the Anaheim area.

Use extreme caution while driving near Anaheim High School on warm afternoons. Hazardous glare could impair your ability to operate a automobile. Please, avert your eyes!

Yeah, it's a frightening thought, more so because it's true. On those hot days out on the practice field, Anaheim offensive linemen are apt to let it all hang out.

A drill will be in progress. Hot, sweaty work. Then, the hint of a breeze. Suddenly snouts are up. One will bellow, "Breeze, coach."

Jerseys are hiked up. Bellies flop out. A snort of relief. Then back to work.

Think about it.

James Navarrette, 6 feet, 300 pounds.

Charles Armijo, 6-1, 300.

Daryn Leimbach, 5-11, 235.

Manual Barragan, 5-11, 210.

And the baby, Raul Zepeda, 5-10, 205.

Not exactly the cast of "Baywatch." Just one glance at those rolling midsections and you're a pillar of salt. Fabio they ain't.

They call themselves the hogs. Hardly original. But they certainly aren't wild bores.

"Hey, it's great blocking for . . . uh . . . uh . . . what's his name?" Leimbach said.

Reuben Droughns? The best running back in Orange County? The guy who runs up your back side?

"Yeah, that guy."

Don't buy it. "Droughns" is a name they've heard and heard and heard. It's to the point where even Droughns is tired of listening.

His own fault, really. He did gain 2,039 yards a year ago and has 805 through five games this season.

People are calling him the best in the county since . . . well, you name it: Derek Brown, Kerwin Bell, Willie Gittens, Myron White, Mickey Flynn--all those fossils. Ray Pallares better gaze fondly on that career rushing record. It could be gone by December, 1995.

Yup, Droughns is going places. His Pips aren't.

The bacon bunch isn't exactly college linemen material. They don't fit that 6-5, 275-pound mold. Although they do tend to break the mold when it's across from them. They get their pound of flesh.

The rewards are few. Well, they did get treated to pizza recently by quarterback Rudy Herrera's uncle. The bill: Two C-notes.

But the girth of the matter is, right now, they are the most important people in Droughns' life. And he knows it.

Not an interview goes by that Droughns doesn't drone on about the flab five. They're the best. They're the greatest. Why, you can almost visualize him memorizing those 3x5 cards they wrote for him.

"He better give us credit or mysterious things could happen," Navarrette said. "Why, I might look at the guy I'm suppose to block and say, 'How would you like to be player of the week?' "

What a ham. Of course, he's kidding, we think.

Actually, this porcine posse knows what Droughns does for them as well. They know, for instance, it doesn't take much of a hole to spring the guy free. That makes their job a lot easier.

They also know that there's nothing wrong with being anonymous. After all, they are having a ton of fun. At 5-0 and ranked seventh in the county, who wouldn't be?

"It's just a pleasure watching Reuben run," Navarrette said. "Usually I'm on top of some guy. I'll look up and see him fly by."

Which is almost as satisfying as a gentle crosswind during practice.

Line coach Dave Torres, no Slim Fast junkie himself, is to blame. He's the one who turns a blind eye to this cellulite tradition. Torres, in fact, enjoys it and joins in.

"They hang those things out and, suddenly, I don't look too bad for 35 years old," Torres said.

Well, fun is fun, guys. But we beg you. Holster those puppies, would ya? Some of us have weak stomachs.

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