Football is a contact sport, so it makes perfect sense that the ideal linebacker is someone who enjoys making jarring tackles.
"I love collisions," said Isaiah Bowens, a senior from La Puente Bishop Amat.
Quarterbacks, running backs and receivers beware. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Bowens thrives on roaming the field using his 4.6-second 40-yard speed, then zeroing in on his target.
"When he gets near the ball, the play ends," Coach Steve Hagerty said. "You can't say that with most kids."
Added Bowens: "You hit him and, like a flash, it's over."
Good linebackers are athletic, tough and versatile, qualities that describe Bowens, who has committed to UCLA and is only beginning to understand his athletic and academic potential.
He moved to the Southland from Seattle as a sophomore, reuniting with his mother, Rhonda, who suffered severe injuries in an automobile accident when Isaiah was a boy and is quadriplegic. Also aiding him are his grandmother, aunt and uncle.
Although he left his father in Washington, Bowens said he needed a change.
"I was determined," he said. "I didn't want to let [my mother] down. I wanted to do everything right. It wasn't working for me in Seattle. I came down here for a new beginning. I did everything I was supposed to do, and I'm still doing everything I'm supposed to do."
With a 3.2 grade-point average and a commitment to excel in football, Bowens has learned not to squander opportunities that can shape his future.
"Everybody has something in them," he said. "I'm using my ability the best I can."
He played primarily as a defensive end last season and will probably do so again in a 4-3 defensive alignment, but he'll also play linebacker in preparation for the college level.
He doesn't have the experience and explosiveness of Corona Centennial linebacker Vontaze Burfict. He doesn't have the size and strength of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame linebacker Jordan Barrett. But with each game Bowens moves closer to becoming a linebacker who can handle anything asked of him.
His challenge is to keep learning and improving.
About tackling, Bowens said, "You want to wrap up. And get under those pads. You don't want to just hit him. Maybe he'll bounce off. You want to hit him as hard as you can every time."
About the fundamentals of playing linebacker, Bowens said, "It takes a lot of vision, and you can't be scared. You have to hit the holes and do what you have to do to make the tackle. You have to take the guy out."
Bowens knows what kind of future he can have if he keeps his focus on and off the field.
"It's real exciting," he said.
* Next up: defensive backs
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How the linebackers rank:
1. Vontaze Burfict, Corona Centennial, 6-2, 245, Sr.; USC commit has no peer.
2. Jordan Barrett, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, 6-2, 225, Sr.; Aggressive and tough.
3. Marquis Simmons, Dominguez, 6-0, 220, Sr.; Always in attack mode.
4. Isaiah Bowens, Bishop Amat, 6-2, 220, Sr.; Has impressive speed, athleticism.
5. Zac Stout, Oaks Christian, 6-2, 205, Jr.; Headed for big-time status.
6. Todd Golper, Arcadia, 6-1, 225, Sr.; Committed to UCLA.
7. Trevor Erno, Lakewood, 6-2, 230, Sr.; Committed to Arizona.
8. Eric Martin, Rancho Verde, 6-2, 225, Sr.; Had 120 tackles, nine sacks in 2007.
9. John Michael Davis, Tesoro, 6-2, 225, Sr.; Committed to Boise State.
10. Hayes Pullard, Crenshaw, 6-2, 200, Jr.; Has speed to take down running backs.
-- Eric Sondheimer