This Teddy Bear Shows His Claws on Field : Division II: Dana Hills' Diaz is a 6-5, 290-pound offensive lineman who displays his ferocious side only in games.


Time to meet with Alfredo Diaz.

You know, that 6-foot-5, 290-pound senior at Dana Hills High School. The guy with the cropped hair and goatee--both of which are dyed orange.

Diaz is in the weight room. No doubt lifting huge hunks of metal, maybe tossing them off the wall.

Time to tread carefully.

The last thing you expect to find is Diaz, the boy-mountain, tidying up. But there he was, broom in hand, sweeping away.

There must be a mistake. Where's the raw meat?

"I know how it is," Diaz said. "My friends even tell me, 'Gee Al, if I saw you on the street late at night, I'd be scared to death.' People look at me and just expect me to be mean."

But Diaz, a senior offensive tackle, prefers to leave the images to others. Sure, he's big--very big--and his job entails planting defensive players. But he's not looking for a reputation.

It's the reason he prefers the offensive line, where anonymity is nearly a requirement.

"Al is one of those kids who is like your own son," offensive line coach Bernie Blakely said. "He works hard and has a great attitude."

Diaz will talk about his after-school job at a nursery. Or about the times he baby-sat his boss' 1 1/2-year-old daughter. Or . . .

"Really, I'm a teddy bear," Diaz said.

Diaz knows there is a time to be fierce, and it's on the football field. On it, he is one of those thugs on the Dolphin offensive line, which is a big reason the Dolphins are playing Irvine for the Southern Section Division II title Saturday.

In the semifinals against Dominguez last week, Diaz moved to guard to counter the Dons' large defense tackles. On one play, he burst through the line, with running back Jeremy Buck close behind, plowed over one defender and went looking for more.

"The coaches told me I was like a Mack truck going through the line," Diaz said. "They showed (the film) over and over."

At times, even his own teammates bear the brunt of it.

"Al is the only guy who has ever de-cleated me," Dana Hills linebacker David Erikson said. "He just drilled me in practice one day. It's the hardest I've ever been hit. On the field, he's an ape."

But on the field is where he leaves it.

Don't get the idea Diaz spends his off hours doing needle point, but his personality is quite different away from football.

"Al is such a neat guy," said Lori Lopez, his boss at Capistrano Gardens in San Juan Capistrano.

"He does everything. He'll help customers, carrying things for them and loading their cars. He's incredibly gentle."

So much so, that Diaz baby-sits Lopez's daughter, Brittany.

In fact, one Saturday practice he showed up with Brittany in toe, which brought a good deal of ribbing from his teammates. He then drove her over to Blakely's house, where Blakely's wife took over until practice ended.

"There was this big monster carrying this little girl," Blakely said. "It looked really funny. When he picked her up, my wife said (Brittany) ran into his arms yelling, 'Al, Al, Al.' He's really a gentle giant."

Well, Diaz will tell you that hasn't always been the case.

As a freshman, he was a defensive lineman. From what he knew of defensive linemen, he was suppose to be mean.

"I wouldn't talk to anybody, I wouldn't smile," Diaz said. "I tried to act like a hoodlum around school."

Diaz was asked to move to the offense as a sophomore and was even promoted to the varsity. But he didn't like it.

He was confused by the offensive schemes and had trouble memorizing the plays.

After three games, Diaz asked to go down to the junior varsity, where he thought he could play defense again. Instead, he found himself on the JV offensive line.

"At that point, it was either learn it or sit on the bench," Diaz said. "I hate sitting on the bench."

Diaz learned and was brought back to the varsity for the playoffs. Last season, he earned a starting spot, and this year he developed into one of the top linemen in the South Coast League.

"Al has really grown in football," Blakely said. "I think it brought him out of his shell. He used to be very shy, but he has quite a personality now."

After beating Buena in the first round of the playoffs, Diaz decided to bleach his hair blond. However, he overdid it, and his hair turned light orange.

"I was just so excited about winning, I had to do something," Diaz said. "It was either that or get a tattoo. I didn't want a tattoo."

Of course not. That would look mean.

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