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HIGH SCHOOLS

Malele Creates Own Memories

High schools: Senior defensive tackle, much like his father, has developed into a standout at Carson.

September 06, 2002|ERIC STEPHENS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Malele Malele used to take his sons to the park to play tennis and basketball. Football was something he didn't want to emphasize in their lives.

But brothers Mel and Matthew were reminded of the sport's role in their father's life by the trophies displayed in their Carson home and by the worn album of photos and newspaper clippings that chronicled his exploits.

They heard more stories from relatives and friends. And their love for the game grew.

"People would tell me how great a player my dad was," Matthew Malele said. "They'd tell me that he was the hardest hitter in the city."

Matthew Malele has grown up to become much like his father on the playing field. The senior defensive tackle is the centerpiece of a Carson High team that is again expected to challenge for the City Section championship.

At 6 feet 2 and 300 pounds, he is considered the best at his position in the City and one of the top recruits on the West Coast. Coaches and scouts rave about his ability to shed blockers and get into the backfield.

Taft edged the Colts, 17-14, in last year's City quarterfinals en route to a title-game appearance. But Taft Coach Troy Starr was so impressed, he rated Malele with former Westchester High and University of Washington standout Larry Tripplett as the best linemen he had seen in his 11 years at the school. Tripplett was the Indianapolis Colts' second-round draft pick in April.

"We averaged 0.8 yards [per rush] on the ground that game," Starr said. "That should say how good [Malele] is. He's a wall."

Manuel Douglas is in his first season as coach at Harbor City Narbonne after serving as offensive coordinator at Carson. He said he isn't looking forward to designing a scheme to neutralize Malele when the teams meet on Oct. 18.

The reason Malele is so effective, Douglas says, is his footwork.

"He's got the most explosive first two steps that I've ever seen," he said. "For a big man to move that fast is amazing. To be honest, you run away from him."

Malele showed off those talents on April 13 at the Nike Camp at USC, where 370 college prospects from across the nation were evaluated. His strength was obvious, but his 4.91 clocking in the 40-yard dash and 26.4-inch vertical leap caught the scouts' attention.

That helped cement his name at the top of recruiting lists at several major colleges. USC, Stanford, UCLA and Washington have all reportedly offered scholarships. He has a trip lined up for Tennessee on Nov. 9, when the Volunteers play host to Miami. Both schools have talked to him, as have Oregon, Notre Dame and Michigan State.

"You feel good that a lot of schools want you," he said. "It shows you that hard work pays off."

Despite being selected to the Shrine all-star football game when he was a senior, Malele Malele played only one year of junior college football before giving up the game and starting a family. The elder Malele and his wife, Cecilia, have always stressed education to their children and it has paid off.

Matthew Malele will have no worries meeting academic standards. He has a 3.8 grade-point average and a 900 score on the SAT.

"As parents, we're concerned about what's out there after four years," Malele Malele said. "A lot of kids are obsessed with playing in the big leagues, so the big thing we stressed with Matthew is he's got to look at the long run. He's got to make sure that a school is not only good for him for football but also good for him for his future.

"You can go to Oregon and still go to the pros. You can go to Stanford and still go to the pros. All of these schools offer different things."

For now, Matthew Malele wants the experience of winning the City title. In his two previous years on the varsity, the Colts have lost in the title game and in the quarterfinals.

"I want to at least have one ring," he said. "With the team we've got, we can do it."

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