Getting a handle on Glyn Milburn, the star tailback at Santa Monica High School, is getting harder each week.
To be sure, none of the opposition has been able to. But what are we to make of the leading rusher and scorer in the Southern Section off the field?
Last weekend, he spent a day in Tijuana with a Christian youth group, Young Life, building a swing set for underprivileged children there. He dabbles in computers and cartooning and still-life drawings. He is a member of the Black Students Union at school and carries a 3.7 grade-point average.
But the image of this quiet, to-himself kind of guy has got to go. Milburn is hiding behind it the way a small running back hides behind a picket fence of big offensive lineman. Haven't enough people seen or heard the truth, the singing in the locker room--he often makes up his own songs--and the mild practical jokes? If not, the time may come in the next couple of months.
"When football starts, I'm basically a different person," he said. "I'm silly, especially before practice. I like to joke with friends and things."
Any more planned soon?
"Let's just say I'm writing a script," Milburn said. "Maybe it'll be on the coaches. This being my last year, I have to leave them something to remember me by."
No need. That's already been taken care of. The reminder will forever be there in the form of the 1987 football season.
Milburn, an All-Ocean League cornerback and part-time running back last season as a junior, has rushed for 1,770 yards and scored 29 touchdowns in leading Santa Monica to a 7-0 record, the No. 2 spot in the Southern Conference poll and No. 6 in The Times' Southern Section rankings.
More impressively, he has done this with practically an all-new offensive line, while playing in one fewer game than most everyone else--the Vikings didn't play the first week of the season--and sitting out about five quarters' worth of playing time when Santa Monica had safe leads.
"He runs on instinct, and he's probably the only tailback we've ever had that I allow to run where he wants to," said Tebb Kusserow, the coach at Santa Monica since 1972. "A lot of the touchdown runs, he will see developing before anyone else. He will see when the defense has over-pursued and cut back. He will find the seams."
He has done that right from the start. Milburn, who ran 65 yards for a score on his first carry of 1986, did the same thing this season against St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs--on a cut-back. He blasted over left tackle, then turned back inside and sprinted 90 yards.
"It was like you were in space," Milburn said. "It was like no other feeling. Like an animation."
Or a preview of the rest of the season. Of Milburn's 28 touchdowns rushing--he also had one on a punt return--7 were from midfield or beyond and 2 others were from at least 42 yards out.
More numbers: His game-by-game yardage totals are 241, 157, 282, 383--which broke a 19-year-old school record--256, 242 and 209. That's an average of 252.9 a game. If he finished at that figure, it would be No. 4, all-time, in the nation. The 1,770-yard total is 264 better than the No. 2 rusher in the Southern Section, Sean Cheatham of Garden Grove Rancho Alamitos, who has played eight games. Also, Milburn is averaging 8.6 yards a carry, has scored five touchdowns three times this season, and has not scored fewer than three.
"I'm very surprised at how well things are going," said Milburn, a 5-foot 9-inch, 168-pounder. "But I look at it like we are practicing hard and we've done everything the coaches have told us to do and it's just all paid off."
Actually, the big pay-off may begin tonight, when the Vikings play Beverly Hills (7-1) and Willie Crawford, the Southern Section's No. 21 rusher with 1,014 yards, in a key Ocean League game at 7:30 at Santa Monica College. From there, Santa Monica plays another tough league opponent, Hawthorne, and then goes into the playoffs.
Kusserow's message to the opposition: Don't overcompensate for Milburn with an eight-man front. One opening and, with great acceleration and 11.0 speed in the 100-meter dash, he is deep into the secondary. From there, he has instinct and receivers who take pride in their downfield blocking.
"He's a very gifted open-field runner," Kusserow said. "But his strength is from the point of origin to the first 40 yards."
After that, he can make it look like animation. No joke.
Santa Monica-Beverly Hills figures to be the top match-up tonight, but the best bet for showdowns this weekend is Encino Crespi, 7-0-1 and No. 2 in the Southern Section, against No. 3 L.A. Loyola (8-0) Saturday night at 8 at Birmingham High in Van Nuys. The stadium holds 11,000 and a sellout is expected, with 5,000 tickets available on game day.
Beyond the rankings, the game has a confrontation within the confrontation: the Crespi ground game of Big Five Conference player of the year Russell White and J.J. Lasley against a Loyola defense that has played well all season, especially against the run. When the teams met last season, White was held to 96 yards, a season low.
The top City games: No. 2 Granada Hills (3-3) at No. 4 San Fernando (5-0-1) and No. 1 Carson (6-0) vs. No. 9 L.A. Dorsey (4-2) at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Both will begin at 8 p.m.
Los Altos of Hacienda Heights has held its last six opponents under 50 yards rushing, including Charter Oak of Covina, which got only 38 last week. The Conquerors, 7-1, are at Wilson of Hacienda Heights (6-2) tonight. . . . Alhambra will open its Hall of Fame today in the school gym, with ceremonies beginning at 1:30. The charter members are baseball Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner, National Football League referee Jim Tunney, baseball player Max West, former USC basketball Coach Bob Boyd, football standouts Orve Mohler, Breck Stroshine, Vic Carroll, Vard Stockton, John Seixas, Bill Fisk, Tony Heeb, John Petrovich, Bob Sherman, Allen Cameron and George Thompson, former auto racers Sam Hanks and Mickey Thompson and track star Art Laret. . . . Prime Ticket will televise the Southern Section girls' volleyball final on a two-day delay, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m.