SYLMAR — When Durell Price steps onto the field today for the City Section Division 4-A championship game, he will be armored with more than just the required protective gear and a Sylmar High football uniform.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior running back will be equipped with two sources of inspiration, one on each of the powerful legs that have rushed for 1,770 yards and guided Sylmar's 13-0 season.
The baby rattle secured to the inside thigh-pad pocket will remind him that his 4-month old son Durell Jr. needs a father he can grow to respect and admire. Taped to his other thigh, Price will feel his brother Deon's 1992 City championship ring and remember his dream to earn one just like it, engraved with the same initials, DP.
Today at noon, Price will get his chance to equal his brother's feat when top-seeded Sylmar faces Crenshaw (12-1) in the City championship game at El Camino College in Torrance.
Price, 16, has been dreaming of a City title since he and his family moved from Lancaster to Sylmar nearly four years ago.
In the beginning, Price was upset that his mother moved the family in order to have a shorter commute to her job in Pacoima. But it wasn't long before Price was sold on being a Spartan.
The Price family moved into a house about a stone's throw from the Sylmar football field. One day shortly after the move in the summer of 1991, a junior high student approached Sylmar Coach Jeff Engilman during a workout.
"When he walked up to me, I thought he (had just enrolled)," Engilman said. "I asked him, 'So are we ready?' and he said, 'Well, I'm only an eighth grader,' and I was going, 'Wow-wee.'
"We knew right then that he was gonna be something special."
Although Engilman couldn't get Price in a Spartan uniform just yet, he did put him on the sideline as a ballboy for the 1991 and '92 seasons. And in the meantime, Engilman managed to get Deon off the basketball court and onto the football field for his senior year in '92.
While Durell was happy to just be around Sylmar football, he couldn't shake the yearning to be something more for the Spartans.
As an eighth- and ninth-grader at Olive Vista Junior High, Price would bolt out of school at 2:55 p.m. when the final bell rang, then run two blocks down Borden Avenue and into the Sylmar weight room before Sylmar's final bell rang at 3:05.
"I wanted to do everything with the team, like a Rudy almost," Price said. "I wanted to be on Sylmar's team so bad."
Instead, Price watched as his brother Deon helped lead the Spartans past Carson, 17-0, in the championship game. Deon was the quarterback in a run-oriented offense that revolved around running back Tyrone Crenshaw, who now plays at Michigan State.
Deon, who has played quarterback at Bakersfield College the past two seasons, has always been much more than a brother, Durell said.
Donald Price, Deon and Durell's father, has been in and out of the picture since their parents' divorce more than seven years ago. Deon, Durell said, has been everything he needed him to be--and much more.
"I always tried to follow him around: Do what he did, say what he said, be like he is," Price said. "To this very day I still look up to him."
Durell draws much of his inspiration from his family: Deon, sister Deshawnia, who is also the team statistician, and mother Debbie.
"When I think about how tired I am, or if Coach takes me out of the game because I'm tired, I just dig down deep and think about my family," Price said. "I've got to do this for everybody."
But while his family commitments are strong, Durell idolizes no one more than his brother. Deon and Durell talked by phone before every game this season, one telling the other his goals for the week. Durell made most of Deon's games this season, often leaving for Bakersfield less than an hour after his game ended.
Likewise, Deon has made as many Sylmar games as possible. Last week, Deon encouraged his brother from the Sylmar sideline, cheering each of Durell's four touchdown runs against Carson.
About 15 hours later, Deon was leading the Renegades to a 31-9 victory over Long Beach City in the 43rd Shrine Potato Bowl. And Durell was there to witness his big brother's scoring pass and five-yard touchdown run.
With a powerful arm and a 6-4 frame, Deon has been attracting attention since he put on a Spartan uniform. But Deon lacked the core requirements to earn a scholarship to a Division I school and had to settle for junior college football.
"He would have been a Division I ballplayer," Engilman said. "We had at least eight or nine schools that were just drooling over him."
Meanwhile, Deon doesn't want his brother following in his footsteps academically.
"I'm constantly telling him if you don't have to go to (junior college), then don't," said Deon, who is being recruited by Pacific, among others. "He's got the chance to go almost anywhere he wants to.
"I was looking at his report card the other day and there were a lot of A's and B's. I was really shocked."