Carson High students who have been identified as “nerds” and are feeling insecure should know that Wade Yandall has your back.
He’s the 6-foot-4, 295-pound standout senior offensive tackle on the football team.
He too has been called a nerd for doing his homework, obeying his teachers and compiling a 3.5 grade-point average.
And he’s going to have the last laugh at his taunters, with UCLA, Arizona State, Washington, Stanford, Harvard and Duke expressing interest in recruiting him.
“It’s so important to me,” Yandall said of getting an education. “Ever since I was little, my parents have been pushing academics.”
Long before football became his passion, Yandall was part of the non-athletic crowd.
“I’ve been called names since I was a kid,” he said. “It was because I’d volunteer in class. My dad told me, ‘Don’t let that stuff bother you.’ ”
Football was not a priority growing up. He tried it as a fourth-grader and didn’t last long. It was back to watching video games and sitting on the couch eating junk food.
He went out for football again as a freshman and suffered a broken ankle at midseason. He sat out his entire sophomore season because of another injury and saw his weight balloon to 330 pounds. He joined the volleyball team, lost weight and got healthy but wondered about football.
“I was second-guessing myself, ‘Is football not made for me?’ ” he said.
That’s when he had a talk with former USC linebacker Rey Maualuga, who was dating his cousin.
“He told me the only way to play football is if you have the desire,” Yandall said.
Yandall returned for a productive junior season, and he has become perhaps the top lineman in the City Section. His presence is a big reason Carson is 5-2 overall and 2-0 in the Marine League entering tonight’s neighborhood rivalry game against visiting Wilmington Banning.
“Wade Yandall has developed into the consummate student-athlete,” Coach Mike Christensen said. “He’s an exceptional character young man.”
His intelligence, coachability and desire to keep improving make him a top college prospect at the tackle position, along with his commitment to never give up when the going gets tough in the trenches.
“The guy in front of me, I’m going to give him hell,” he said. “My goal is to wear him down to where he doesn’t want to go against me anymore.”
Much has changed for Yandall.
“Everybody in my family has been surprised,” he said. “I’ve been the geek. I was the academic kid. I never thought about going to college, playing football. I played football because it was something to do. Now I have the passion for the game.”
Call it revenge of a nerd.
“I’m finding out new things about me,” Yandall said.
He’s learning to have no mercy for his opponent, but his goodness comes through on the football field. What other standout player volunteers to drag the water machine to his teammates during practice?
Someone with toughness and compassion. That’s Yandall.
Who needs the NFL?
Los Angeles doesn’t need an NFL franchise to bring out football fans en masse. People are filling up high school stadiums for big games.
Watching the sold-out game between Anaheim Servite and Santa Ana Mater Dei last week was enjoyable because the fans were loud and loyal. Servite’s students rank with the best in their ability to support their team. There was no Raiders baloney, just old-fashioned cheering.
I expect the same tonight when the crowds come out for Los Alamitos-Huntington Beach Edison, Encino Crespi-Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and Banning-Carson. Next week’s Edison-Fountain Valley game is already a sellout. And 25,000 are waiting to fill East Los Angeles College for Roosevelt-Garfield.
People are discovering high school football produces great entertainment and drama for less than $10 a ticket. And you might see a future star in the making.