With nicknames being commonplace among Sylmar High football players, it didn't take long in 1995 for the 290-pound freshman to be called "Baby Huey" by Coach Jeff Engilman.

By his own admission, Antonio Sanchez was a "fat boy back then."

But a lot has happened in three years. For starters, Sanchez grew out of his nickname.

"He's developed quite a bit," Engilman said. "Plus he can probably outrun me, so I can't run away from him anymore."

Neither can most defensive linemen.

Sanchez, who has trimmed his 6-foot-6 frame to a muscular 280 pounds to begin his senior season, is perhaps the best offensive lineman in the region.

A three-year starter who helped pave the way for Sylmar's run-oriented offense, Sanchez is looking better than ever, Engilman said.

A year ago, Sanchez was a bulky 295-pounder who impressed Michigan coaches at the Wolverines' week-long summer camp for high school players. Of about 350 linemen at the 1,600-player camp, Sanchez was selected lineman of the camp.

And they haven't forgotten him.

Michigan is among more than 25 Division I colleges interested in Sanchez, who has a scholarship offer from Arizona.

Sanchez, after trimming down to 260 pounds last spring and improving his strength and speed, has attracted recruiting interest as both an offensive and defensive lineman.

"I started eating right," said Sanchez, who eliminated red meat and foods high in fat from his diet. "I want to perform right."

Engilman, however, put an end to Sanchez's need to feel healthy.

"I told him, 'You're losing too much weight,' " Engilman said.

Although Sanchez has gained 20 pounds since the spring, he has maintained his speed and strength.

"He's so much quicker," Engilman said. "His feet are phenomenal for a man his size. And that's what makes a difference. That's all college coaches are looking at."

Quick feet and a trimmed-down physique aren't the only changes Sanchez has made since arriving at Sylmar as an overweight teenager who had never been active in sports.

Once a self-described "troublemaker," Sanchez used drugs and alcohol before starting high school. He began to shed his bad-boy image after friends talked him into trying out for the football team.

"I was just another punk, basically," Sanchez said. "[But] I got bored with it and grew out of it. Some kids didn't."

As a freshman, Sanchez was academically ineligible to play football in the regular season. But he stayed with the team and eventually became eligible, playing with the varsity in the 1995 playoffs, a feat that surprised coaches and friends.

"I guess they thought I was just another [gang] banger who would quit in a few weeks," Sanchez said. "But I ended up staying here."

Football helped turn his life around, Sanchez said. A product of a single-parent home, Sanchez had virtually no paternal presence growing up.

"I would have probably dropped out of high school [if it wasn't for football]," he said.

Sanchez, who has moved from left to right tackle to protect the blind side of left-handed quarterback Noah Albiston, is talkative but soft-spoken.

He doesn't care for media attention, but said he tolerates it for the attention it brings the team. He just wants to be known as one of the guys.

"I don't consider myself the best, or the best in the City," Sanchez said. "I just consider myself a Sylmar football player."


Sneak Peek

Fourth in a nine-part series. Today:

Aug. 27: Quarterbacks. Kyle Boller of Hart

Aug 28: Manuel White of Valencia

Tight ends: Mike Seidman of Westlake

Sunday: Wide receivers. Jerry Owens of Hart

Wednesday: Offensive linemen. Tony Sanchez of Sylmar

Thursday: Defensive linemen. Carl Cannon of Taft

Friday: Linebackers. Jorge Tapia of Hueneme

Sept. 5: Defensive backs. Corey Neal of Sylmar

Sept. 6: Kickers. Jason Geisler of Camarillo

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