Vic Player, Lincoln High School football coach, wouldn't let Darrin Wagner play after Wagner transferred from University City in midseason last year. This, in spite of the fact that Wagner was an outstanding runner.
"I didn't want him coming in and taking the spot of someone I already had in there," Player said. "And, also, I was kind of nonplused when I heard he was coming here. I had never seen him."
Nowadays, Player is happy to have Wagner, who played well in spring football proving himself to the coach.
"I finally have a tailback who can do it all," Player said.
And that's no small praise considering Marcus Allen of the Raiders once played for Player at Lincoln. At that time, however, Allen was a quarterback.
"Darrin has all of the tools," Player said. "He came in here and worked as hard as anyone to win a starting job. He didn't just come here figuring he already had one."
Saturday in San Francisco, Wagner helped lead defending section 2-A champion Lincoln to an 82-0 victory over Wilson in its season opener. Wagner, The Times' high school Player of the Week, gained 178 yards in 9 carries and scored 5 touchdowns on runs of 27, 36, 45, 26 and 43 yards.
"It seemed every time I got the ball, there was room to run," Wagner said. "It's great being here with this team. We have so much talent, and that made it easy for me."
University City also was a talented team last season. With Wagner in the backfield, the Centurions were expected to challenge for the 2-A title.
However, Wagner was disenchanted with his academic standing; he had a 2.5 grade-point average. Although he was close with Coach Steve Vukojevich, he said other coaches seemed too busy to help him with his school work.
"I knew I couldn't play to my full potential if I was that unhappy," he said.
So, six weeks into the season, he transferred to Lincoln. His mother lives in the Lincoln attendance area. He was able to make the move without much bureaucratic red tape.
He had been a star at University City, but there were many more stars at Lincoln. The Hornets were busy building a team that was ranked No. 1 in the state.
Wagner said he didn't mind not playing last season at Lincoln, agreeing with his coach it would not have been fair.
In the classroom, Wagner says he's doing much better. His grade-point average last semester was 3.5.
"They've helped me a lot here," Wagner said.
And, in Saturday's season opener, Wagner reciprocated the good will.
Lincoln High School
Position: Running back.
Height, Weight, Class: 5-9, 170, Sr.
Last Week: Rushed for 178 yards in 9 carries. Scored 5 touchdowns in 82-0 victory.