CITY PREVIEW : Banning Defensive Star Doesn’t Look the Part : Marvin Pollard, 6-2 and 180, Is a Gentleman Off the Football Field, but He’s a Terror on It

Times Staff Writer

Chris Ferragamo, Wilmington Banning High School’s football coach, was off his chair at the first knock on the door.

“I’m telling you, this guy doesn’t look like a football player,” Ferragamo said, before flinging open his office door. There stood Marvin Pollard, a 6-foot 2-inch, 180 pound senior, the best defensive back in the City Section and one of the five best in the country, according to one magazine.

Ferragamo was correct, though. Pollard does not look the part.

This smiling, soft-spoken guy is a head bashing free safety? This is the guy whose two interceptions in the City semifinal game propelled Banning into the final and to the 4-A championship?


He is indeed. On the field that is. Off of it, he’s doing everything he can to offset his tough image.

Pollard, decked out in a preppy blue and white pin-striped shirt, dark blue pants and black high-top aerobics shoes, is as well dressed as he is well mannered.

“On the field, he’s a tyrant,” Ferragamo said. “Off the field, he’s just the nicest guy. He’s always saying, ‘Yes sir. No sir.’ ”

This distinction in personalities suits Pollard fine. “I always dress neat,” he said. “I’m always concerned with my appearance. Some football players just throw on a T-shirt. That’s OK if you’re just lifting weights. I figure off the field you should be a gentleman, but when you’re playing, it’s a whole different thing.

“You have no friends on the field.”

What Pollard does have on the field is confidence. He exudes it to the tips of his fingers, which pulled in four interceptions last season.

An all-around athlete, Pollard played quarterback on the B team and forward on the basketball team as a sophomore. This season, besides playing safety, he is playing a little flanker, too, and in a scrimmage last Friday, caught a 70-yard touchdown pass. He is also one of the team’s captains.


He relishes his role in the limelight, but does so with a sense of honor.

And he has attracted plenty of attention. USC, UCLA, the University of Illinois and the University of Washington are among those courting Pollard. Then there are accolades from newspapers and magazines.

When Street & Smith magazine came out with its top high school players, Pollard said he looked for his name in the honorable mention category. He did not find it there. He found it among the top 50 players, the high school All-American list.

“I saw I was one of the five best defensive backs in the nation,” Pollard said. “And my eyes lit up. I was shocked.

“The first thing I thought was, ‘Live up to it.’ I wouldn’t want someone to come out to see Banning play and just watch me and then not have a good game.”

Ah, but Pollard, with help from his defensive teammates, has been nothing short of brilliant. Besides the four interceptions, Pollard was the anchor man in the Pilots’ stingy defense. Last season, Banning opponents scored just 31 points in second-half play. And, in 12 games, the Pilots gave up only one fourth-quarter touchdown. They shut out archrival Carson in the second half en route to a 31-6 win in the 4-A title game.

Banning will open its season Friday night against Fontana.

It will be Pollard’s chance to see if he has improved as much as Ferragamo believes he has. So far, Ferragamo has been on target in assessing Pollard, ever since spotting him in his sophomore biology class. Ferragamo told Pollard that he was the perfect height to be a free safety. And with that, Pollard gave up on his careers as a quarterback and basketball player.


Last spring, Pollard worked on his fundamentals with Joe Dominguez, an assistant coach. It was Dominguez’s idea to have Pollard play flanker.

According to Ferragamo, he has reached a point where he can cover half of the field by himself from his safety position. He also is asked to move up to the line of scrimmage on running plays because he’s such a good tackler.

Ferragamo also has the Banning players lifting weights on Mondays, something he has not done before. This, too, should help Pollard, who is on the bean-pole side of 180 pounds.

A little filling out, though, is not likely to alter his gentlemanly appearance.