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Rincon Has the Talent to Match His Size

Saddleback defensive lineman is expected to be among the biggest in the Golden West League.


SANTA ANA — Big John Rincon could do without football practices.

Heck, how many guys 6-1, 330 pounds like to sweat that much?

"Practices are a drag," Rincon said. "I just feel like I want to go out and play the games."

Saddleback's Rincon is expected to be one of the biggest defensive linemen in the Golden West League this season, dragging opponents as he goes. Rincon may play on both sides of the line this year, coaches say.

"When people play us, he has to be the first guy to think about," Roadrunner Coach Jerry Witte said. "He was our main guy up front the last half of last year."

Rincon improved dramatically in his junior year, and was a big factor in Saddleback's 7-4 record and its 10th playoff appearance since 1978.

One of six children, Rincon grew up playing baseball, but was challenged by a family member to try football when he entered high school.

"I didn't know too much about it and I wasn't going to play it," Rincon said. "But my brother-in-law said, 'Hey, why don't you go out for it, you're pretty big.' "

Saddleback coaches took one look at Rincon jogging across the field on opening day four years ago and sent him to the tackling sled.

Things went slow the first couple of years. Rincon sweat a lot and wondered whether he wanted to be there.

"I wasn't sure I liked it," Rincon said.

Witte said he and his staff saw potential in Rincon, however, mainly because he spent most of his spare time lifting weights for fun, even if he wasn't always a happy camper at practice.

"He's one of the strongest football players we have had," Witte said. "But football practice for him is not a lot of fun. He's one of those big guys who lives to play games."

Assistant coach Tim Mesenhimer agreed.

"Ever since his freshman year, John could play," Mesenhimer said. "It was always that he didn't think he could play football very well. It was attitude holding him back. At the end of last year, he had some success that was very impressive.

"He got serious in the weight room," Mesenhimer said. "He lacked self confidence. He was so big he didn't want to make a spectacle out of himself. He tried to hide out."

Described as quiet, and somewhat shy, Rincon reported out of shape when the 1996 season began, a disappointment because coaches were counting on him. Then Rincon broke a finger.

"He lagged behind everyone, but by the middle of the season he kept coming on," Witte said.

Mesenhimer said something changed in Rincon as he approached the end of his junior year.

"He never got excited about anything before," Mesenhimer said. "But last year we started to see a blossoming."

One reason, Rincon said, was that he got serious about weightlifting and can now bench press 295 pounds.

Witte said Rincon is close to setting a school record for combined weightlifting in the bench, squats and clean and jerk.

His football has improved, too.

"He doesn't look like a pro type of 330 pounds," Witte said. "He has a bit of a belly, but he is surprisingly quick and has excellent pursuit to the ball."

Rincon says there is a lot of pressure on him to perform well this season. That gives him motivation and a case of nerves.

He'll be all right once the games begin, though, he said.

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