In Africa as a new day begins the cycle of life continues. A Gazelle that roams the savannah knows to avoid being eaten by the King of the Jungle, he doesn't have to be the fastest Gazelle, just faster then the slowest Gazelle. This analogy reminds me of the top high school football player in the area. There's been a lot written on him and here's my take.
His name is Armond Armstead of Pleasant Grove High School, in Elk Grove. I've just watched him break through Valley High School's offensive line and go into full pursuit of their Quarterback during a Friday night scrimmage (see photo).
Unfortunately for most quarterbacks they don't have that option of being faster than the slowest, cause there's only 1 quarterback on the field at any given time. When it comes to being chased by Armond Armstead their fate is usually sealed. If they're not being sacked by Armstead, they're usually being chased and pressured into throwing the ball away. Armond punches through the opponents O-line like the true King of the grid iron that he is and the chase is now on.
The quarterback has few options. He can stand there and try to get the ball off. This often means throwing the ball under pressure, then getting hit by Armstead at a full force of 280+ pounds multiplied by the impact of his full speed pursuit. The quarterbacks other option is to run and try to elude this imposing force. I've watched Armstead chase and take down many a quarterback – reminiscent of a lion pursuing his prey. The easiest and safest option is to throw the ball away and come back to play another down hopefully unscathed.
It's pretty obvious why Armond is one of the hottest prospects out there, just watch him play one game and you'll know why. Armond is as agile as a player half his size and just as fast. Playing basketball, a standout in that sport as well, has helped him with his timing, agility and speed.
Last season, the school's inaugural varsity season for all sports, the football team had barely 30 players on their roster and the expectations for success were low. The Eagles finished their season with a respectable .500 record, something that had not been done by a first year varsity team in that area. This year the number of players has doubled and the expectations are much higher. The Sacramento Bee has Pleasant Grove ranked in the top 20 for the 2007 season. The Eagles are ranked 18th, ahead of No. 19 Christian Brothers and No. 20 Rio Linda.
Pleasant Grove started off their season last week with a win over Hiram Johnson High School, shutting them out 49-0. Armond looked impressive out there and definitely made an impact in shutting out Hiram Johnson HS.
Oh, and running backs are on his menu as well. He took more than one down on his own at the Hiram Johnson game.
One of the pro photographers out on the field made a comment to me that stood out. He said "Armstead is flicking off the Hiram Johnson players as if they were fleas". I asked him who he was shooting for. He gave me the name of the company. He said that he's here on assignment and this is the first high school football game he's shot as a pro photographer. He's usually at an NFL or NBA game. He's providing pictures of Armstead for archival purposes to be sold to newspapers and magazines once he goes pro. Talk about a stock market approach to high school prep photography. If that's not an indication of a player having big time written all over him, I don't know what is.
In this coming season, his senior year, the opposing teams' Offensive line will be tested again and again. Unfortunately for them the outcome is usually the same. Armstead eventually punching through their O'line and making their quarterback run for his survival. Fortunately for the Quarterback, and his team, the most they'll lose is a down and possibly some yardage – unlike the Gazelle that can lose his life.
I asked some of his teammates and friends what kind of animal would symbolize the kind of player that could stop Armstead on the field. The answer was always the same, another lion , in other words another Armstead. A well deserved compliment.
Armstead might not be king of the African jungle, but he is King of the Grid Iron jungle, top of the Football food chain, at the dismay of every quarterback and team he faces.