IOWA CITY – Don Sabers still remembers the first time he saw Amos Lavela run. It wasn’t on a cut or a juke. He wasn’t running over a would-be-tackler. It wasn’t even on the gridiron.
Instead it was on the track, avoiding hurdles not defenders.
Still Sabers knew.
“I knew of him as a football player but once I got to see him in track, I realized he was explosive and stuff,” Sabers said. “It really got me pretty excited.”
Five years later that excitement is coming to fruition. Lavela leads Iowa City High in rushing as the Little Hawks play Iowa City West for The Battle of the Boot on Friday.
Lavela no longer runs track, but hasn’t entirely bagged the skills that goes with it. What caught Sabers’ eye wasn’t just that he hurdled, it was the body he was leaping in.
“When you first saw him, you said ‘Boy that kid is put together well for a seventh-grader,” Sabers said. “It was pretty obvious to everyone he had a chance to be pretty special.”
At 5-8, 190, he’s not the prototypical hurdler. Due to his size, flexibility was a necessity on the track. It’s come in handy on the football field as well.
“Oh yeah, I’ve still got a lot of it,” Lavela said. “It’s helped me a lot. I’ve been tackled in some positions and it’s like ‘Oh, that should have broke right there.’”
So far the only thing that’s broken is his opponents spirits. Lavela carried the ball 71 times this season for 480 yards, good for 6.8 yards per rush. Unlike on the track though, he’s not looking to avoid the obstacles that stand in his way.
With his low center of gravity, the senior running back acts as a battering ram on the field. He has no problem obliterating what’s in his path.
“I love it,” Lavela said. “When someone is coming up to me, I just think one-on-one. I just got to beat him. I just like making sure that he feels the pain and see if he comes at me the next run. It’s just how I like to run. If I hit him once, is he going to come back again?”
It’s not all brawn and no brains for Lavela. He possesses the strength to blow up a defender, but also boasts the agility to juke defenders out of their cleats. It all depends on the situation.
“If we’re in an open space, we need another touchdown, I’ll try to make them miss,” Lavela said. “If it’s closed (space) and they’re behind me, finish the run. Hit ‘em.”
It’s one thing to demonstrate those skills, it’s another to know when to execute them. In fact, Sabers said he might actually be a better defensive player. That type of skill set earned him back-to-back All-State honors and attracted the interest of schools like Iowa State, Northern Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota.
Not bad for a sport he uses as a stress reliever.
“I wouldn’t really say it’s a ‘main sport,’ just something to do, relieve some stress,” Lavela said. “… This is pretty much the only sport where I can take out stress and stuff like that, without really getting in trouble for it.”
And Lavela should expect a lot more stress relieving opportunities this season.
“I’m probably guilty of using him too much,” Sabers said. “But you know want him on the kick off team. You want him on the kick receiving team, because he’s a special player. Yeah we use him a lot.”