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Fremont's Herring Will Be Prized Catch

Major colleges are taking notice of the Pathfinders' agile two-way lineman.

September 04, 2003|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

It was a play in an October afternoon game that Fremont eventually lost, but Thomas Herring's 65-yard touchdown reception might as well be named "the Play" to all who witnessed it.

Herring caught a short pass over the middle and outran Crenshaw's defense -- including a talented and speedy secondary -- without being touched.

College recruiters surely saw his dash to the end zone. All 6 feet 7 and 290 pounds of him.

"I went to the first person next to me and said, 'Did you see that?' " Fremont Coach Pete Duffy recalled with an incredulous look.

The 17-year-old hears remarks like that and takes them in with an unassuming smile.

"I remember that play," Herring said. "Everybody was like, 'How can somebody that big move that fast? That [defensive back] is going to Oregon. How can you do that?'

"It's God's gift."

With his size and remarkable agility to match, it is no wonder that Herring's name is plastered on every top recruiting list for 2004. Recruiting expert Tom Lemming rates the lineman 20th on his national list. SuperPrep's Allen Wallace calls him a "top-level recruit" and lists him among the best in California regardless of position.

And so the big boys of college football have come after him. Miami. USC. Oklahoma. Michigan.

In a family of five that gets by on limited resources, Herring's opportunity to attend a major university on a full scholarship and play for a top football program is something to rally around.

"It's exciting," said his mother, Rosalind Farrar. "But he's handling it pretty good. He's a quiet child, not like most kids who could be boasting that I'm going here and I'm going there. He's always been that way."

Said Herring: "In the past, we've had guys that got the same attention, and this year I'm getting it. I want to be a good example."

One look gives the impression that the senior could be the most dominant force in the City Section. He plays defensive tackle and tight end for the Pathfinders, but many eventually see him as the prototypical offensive lineman.

Duffy compares him to perennial Pro Bowl tackle Jonathan Ogden and does his best to make his player realize this opportunity.

"I'm really tough on him," Duffy said. "Some days I give him positive reinforcement, some days I give him negative reinforcement. There are days when he wonders why I'm pushing him so much. He's got an opportunity that few kids, especially those that live in this area, have."

Said Herring: "My goal is to dominate a lot more. The problem I had was being in shape. A lot of coaches say I should have more sacks than I do. That's my focus, more sacks, more tackles, more big plays."

Football is still a learning process for Herring. Always big for his age, he was often too heavy to play in the weight-based Pop Warner youth leagues.

That size worked in basketball, and Herring regularly played for the San Fernando Valley-based ARC traveling team while in middle school.

Basketball quickly became his focus. The family moved from Monrovia to the South-Central area so Herring could attend Fremont after his freshman year because of the successful Pathfinder program.

Duffy didn't waste any time making his pitch to the youngster.

"When I first saw him, I asked him if he played football," Duffy said. "He had to. Look at him."

Herring wasn't much at birth. Born two weeks prematurely, he was the smallest of Farrar's five children at only 3 pounds. The teenager has bucked the odds since.

He has had little contact with his father, Thomas Herring Sr., in recent years but never let it adversely affect him. Farrar said her son rarely failed to do his chores and always earned good grades in school.

His mother's story is different. About 20 years ago, she was diagnosed with lupus, a disease that attacks the immune system. In her case, the symptoms are often a great deal of pain in her joints, and it affects her organs. Because of the disease, she is unable to work and must go to USC Medical Center for treatment four times a month.

With the family relying on disability checks and federal assistance, the children often went without the brand names or the latest fashions.

Herring sees a better future. Providing for his family has become a source of motivation.

"I want to get to the pros and be a potential superstar and play amongst the greatest athletes in the world," he said. "I want to get the best doctors for my mom. [My family] never had too many problems with wanting stuff, but there've been times when they wanted something and couldn't have it.

"I want to make it so they don't have to want anymore."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

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