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High Schools

Radovich Gives His Game a Lift

High schools: Lineman at Mission Viejo went from skinny freshman to coveted senior through hard work.

September 05, 2002|DAN ARRITT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's the classic tale of boy meets weight room. Drew Radovich arrived at Mission Viejo High three years ago as an awkward, wiry freshman, fretting every time he looked in the mirror.

"I had this body with no purpose," he said. Today, he is one of the highest-prized offensive linemen in the country, with eight Pacific 10 Conference teams among those offering scholarships. Radovich credits his maturation to an extensive weight-training program, part of the motivation provided by his veteran line coach.

At first glance, Radovich's 6-foot-4 1/2, 270-pound frame is his most obvious asset, but his quick feet and flawless technique are what separate him from other top linemen.

"People have asked me how good Drew is compared to some of the good ones I've coached," Mission Viejo line coach Marty Spalding said. "I tell them he's as good as anybody. He's very athletic and fast enough with his feet that he can get off the line quicker than anyone I have seen."

That quickness helps give Radovich the leverage needed to knock defenders off balance and move them out of the hole. "You'll give up 60 pounds to a player and still win the battle," he said.

Radovich opened running lanes the last two seasons for fellow All-Southern Section players Robbie Dubois and Ryan Powdrell, who graduated in June.

Radovich, who didn't play tackle football until his freshman year, compared his early blocking technique to that of a bowling ball barreling down a lane.

"I just went out and hit people," he said. "I didn't know who to block and didn't know the concepts. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't."

After his uncertain debut, Radovich discovered the rewards of weight training, which not only boosted his strength and increased his weight by about 100 pounds during the last three years, but improved his balance and quickness.

"Once I hit the weight room, everything began to change," he said.

Radovich also found a trusting mentor in Spalding, who has coached alongside the Diablos' head coach, Bob Johnson, during four Southern Section championship seasons at Mission Viejo and Lake Forest El Toro.

"[Spalding] has this presence that when I'm around him, I want to impress him," Radovich said. "The main thing that made me so good is his coaching ability. I'm so blessed to be coached by him. I don't know how my college coaches will be, but I think he'll always be my main inspiration."

Radovich is the physical leader of an offensive line that's expected to be one of the best in Southern California. The only area in which Spalding would like to see his protege improve is leadership.

"You cannot have a good football team that is not led by seniors," Spalding said.

Last year, it was easy for Radovich and others to work quietly in the shadows of talented seniors who led the Diablos to an undefeated season and a Southern Section Division II title. Now that they've graduated, Radovich understands that he needs to be more vocal.

Radovich has already helped to inspire at least one teammate. Three weeks ago, he and fellow lineman Nate Wimber were descending steps leading to the beach when Wimber stepped on hot coals.

Wimber burned portions of his feet, but Radovich talked him into attending a voluntary conditioning program three days later, insisting it was the perfect opportunity to make a lasting impression on the other players. "That showed good leadership on both our parts," he said. "People were listening."

Wimber said he has been impressed with Radovich's leadership skills since preseason practices began last week.

"He has become pretty vocal," Wimber said. "He was kind of quiet last season, but this year he has kind of opened up."

Radovich proved his toughness last season in the Division II championship game against Chino, playing with a broken hand, suffered the week before against Alta Loma.

While attending to the hand, doctors took a look at Radovich's skeletal crystal ball, the space between growth plates that can help to predict a person's eventual height. Radovich said his doctor thought he would grow another two to three inches.

That's more good news for the dozen or so schools that have already offered scholarships, as well as those on the verge of doing so.

Radovich said he has no timetable for his college decision. He's just looking forward to his senior season.

"Now is the time to stay healthy and have fun," he said. "Everything else will take care of itself."

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