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Mean and Spirited

Football: Quartz Hill lineman Jacob Waasdorp plays the game with the ferocity and fervor of his idol, Hall of Famer Dick Butkus.

November 14, 1996|DANA HADDAD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

QUARTZ HILL — Ken Hettinger, defensive coordinator of the Quartz Hill High football team, recently was asked to provide an image of Jacob Waasdorp, his prized senior lineman and one many coaches believe to be the best defensive player in the region.

Hettinger paused, knowing his answer might draw criticism, then spoke.

"Dick Butkus," Hettinger said. "He's Dick Butkus."

Waasdorp plays like Butkus, wreaking havoc on blockers and chasing ballcarriers with the same rabid abandon, probably because Butkus ranks as his favorite player. "He was mean," Waasdorp said. "The fool was crazy."

Butkus was a fiery, fearsome linebacker for the Chicago Bears, and Waasdorp, an intimidating 6-foot-1 1/2, 235-pound senior who bench presses 345 pounds, is a pain-inflicting, high-school version of Butkus.

You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him.

Of course, Waasdorp doesn't remember the playing days of Butkus, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when Waasdorp was only 10 months old.

But in this age of multilevel marketing--when pro athletes are practically jumping out of TV sets and off the pages of magazines--Waasdorp can identify with a 53-year-old legend.

Images?

Here's Waasdorp playing on the offensive line as a sophomore, blocking a Littlerock rusher so hard he leaves his feet.

"He messed up his knee," Waasdorp said. "It's kind of sick to say, but it was kind of a proud moment."

Here's Waasdorp violently colliding with Canyon High receiver Steve Lombardi in a passing-league game. Lombardi needs stitches in one ear and Waasdorp needs a root-canal procedure on a front tooth as a result.

"He didn't stop and I didn't stop," Waasdorp said. "Me being the bigger guy, he went down."

There were other crushing hits, too many to mention.

"I have a lot of stick marks on my helmet, cuts and stuff like that," Waasdorp said.

Butkus would be proud, especially because Waasdorp is not a mere thug but a throwback who plays with knowledge and passion.

When Quartz Hill made key adjustments on defense in victories over Kennedy and Saugus this season, it was Waasdorp who suggested the new strategies.

"It's like having a coach on the field," Hettinger said.

"He's probably the best defensive player we've had," said John Albee, the Rebels' head coach the past 29 seasons.

Nearly every school in the Pacific 10 Conference is recruiting Waasdorp. California and Arizona State already have offered scholarships. The question is which position he will play: linebacker, defensive line or fullback.

Yes, Waasdorp also plays offense, chipping in with 471 yards rushing and 18 receptions.

"I think football gives me character," he said. "Hopefully, it'll give me a scholarship and bring me an education."

Growing up, Waasdorp had no interest in football. He wasn't sports-minded, and when he did compete in organized sports his teammates often teased him for carrying too much baby fat.

"They nicknamed me Cecil Fielder," Waasdorp said. "I was fat and I wasn't very fast. Everybody joked around about it, but it didn't bother me. I thought, 'Oh, well. If it's there, it's there.' "

But by eighth grade, Waasdorp's powerful frame was starting to develop and Matt Anderson, Waasdorp's wood-shop teacher, was convincing him to go out for football at Quartz Hill the following year.

Now Waasdorp is facing the final game of his high school career--Friday night at Antelope Valley--as well as the wreckage of an unsuccessful season, one in which the last-place Rebels (3-6, 0-3) figured to contend for the Golden League championship.

"I don't what it is, seriously," he said. "I don't know if we just don't want it. We have a lot of good players, and we can beat a lot of these teams we're playing. It's just a few guys [not trying]."

Waasdorp's defensive production hasn't dropped much. After recording 85 tackles, 11 sacks and making The Times' All-Valley team in 1995, he has 78 tackles and four sacks through nine games.

This, despite second-half fatigue from playing both ways, problems on the defensive line and despite playing with an inexperienced defensive unit.

"We knew his defensive stats would be down this year, because everybody's triple-teaming him," Hettinger said.

Not to worry, Hettinger says. Someday Waasdorp will be playing in the NFL and will have forgotten about the shortcomings of 1996.

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