MODESTO -- Aaron Cochran thought he was going to be a basketball player when he grew six inches between fourth and sixth grades. Spencer Thomas expected to play running back in high school. John Mundt was 170 pounds while playing varsity as a sophomore.
They didnt arrive at high school as stars at their position, but these three and many other Stanislaus District football players built themselves into the stars they have become today.
The first thing to remember is dont be discouraged by your size, says Cochran, a 6-foot-8, 340-pound offensive tackle and one of the regions top college recruits. Some kids grow later than others. Some get growth spurts.
Cochran wasnt going to play football at Buhach Colony, but his parents got him on the field to keep him in shape for hoops.
I got discouraged because I wasnt very good at it, but as I began working harder, I could see the results, says Cochran, who has a recruiting trip to Nebraska looming. Attitude makes a difference. Being positive in practice, putting full effort into every drill coaches also notice those (things) in a player.
Cochran and a handful of other district players got together with The Bee on videos to provide insight to their positions:
Cochran shows how Buhach tackles are taught to block on running plays, bringing the hands back to the holsters before stepping out for a block.
Kenny Smart is the areas top kicker. The Central Catholic junior shows why its crucial to keep the head down and the plant foot firm and that timing is as crucial as technique.
Who better than Downeys Aaron Zwahlen to explain why footwork is critical for a passer. Hes already committed to the University of Hawaii, so Zwahlens got the street cred.
Mundt is another example of how football players can blossom. Always among the tallest kids in his class, he was often among the thinnest, too.
I had no thickness, even my sophomore year on varsity, said Mundt, a 6-5, 235-pound tight end with a commitment to Oregon. I spent extra time in the weight room, worked with a trainer three days a week at 4:30 a.m. ... The work pays off.
Mundt had a SPARQ score of 114.57 tops among tight ends across the nation at the Oakland tour stop in June. SPARQ is a series of strength and agility drills and is a staple of the Nike/SPARQ Combine Tour.
Even if youre big, work on agility and quickness, said Mundt, who also has a 3.8 GPA. There is a difference between fast and quick. You can be a big lineman, yet still be quick.
Mundt explains how to shed a defender, firing out on a first step and ripping with his arm to throw his foe off balance.
Cochran and Mundt are accustomed to their jobs, but not all players stay at one position.
Thomas ability to throw and run has led Oakdale to two section finals, but the regions top dual-threat quarterback was a running back in Pop Warner.
Plenty of kids will change positions in high school, he says.
Bastian Jimenez was a defensive back two years ago and now hes our linebacker, Thomas says of his 5-10, 170-pound teammate. He was a guard in Pop Warner, blocking for me.
Thomas also is a three-sport standout, as is Mundt, and he believes playing other sports benefits his football experience.
I didnt like football in junior high, the coaches pulled me out on the field, says Thomas, who helped Oakdale to section baseball titles the last two seasons. I started late, but drills I had run in other sports helped make me a football player.