Whenever Quest Truxton works out, he wears a navy blue T-shirt. The words on the front stand out more than the words, graphic and number on his right sleeve because they are in a larger font.
As one of the smallest players on the Newport Harbor High football team, what is on the sleeve means a lot to the 6-foot, 160-pounder. The sleeve reads "TAR BALL" on top, and below an image of a barbell, it reads "1000 POUND CLUB."
This reminds Truxton that he no longer is all skin and bones. This reminds Truxton that he no longer is going to fall apart after a big hit.
There used to be a time whenever someone hit him hard early in the season, Truxton's season ended. Three times, he says, he broke his collarbone before he became a varsity starter last year.
What does Truxton break nowadays on the field? Big plays for the Sailors.
There is a reason why he tells fans to get the popcorn ready for Newport Harbor's contest on Friday.
"It's going to be a show," Truxton says of the Battle of the Bay game against rival Corona del Mar, the defending CIF Southern Section Southern Division champion.
Truxton gets to perform on a bigger stage, at Orange Coast College, rather than at Davidson Field.
The Sailors (1-1), ranked No. 6 in the Southwest Division, are the visitors against the Sea Kings (3-0). Kickoff for the sold-out game is at 7 p.m. and don't arrive late. In last year's game against CdM, Truxton opened it with a 69-yard kickoff return.
The game started with a bang and it ended in the same fashion. For the second time in as many years, it went down to the wire, with Newport Harbor coming back to win yet again.
"I don't think it'll be close," Truxton says of this year's matchup, even though four points have decided the past two games. "We know that it's been [close] the last couple of years and we know we just have to play harder than them. That's all it comes down to [for us to win].
"I could go off about talent and size, and just playmaking abilities, but it's really who just plays harder."
Truxton prides himself on his work ethic. His coach, Jeff Brinkley, calls him a football junkie, someone who watches countless hours of film.
Truxton also puts in the necessary time in the weight room, helping the speedster build strength and stay healthy. The weight room is why Truxton can absorb the punishment when he goes over the middle for a catch in traffic, or fields a punt with players charging at him.
The weight room is where he earned the T-shirt with the barbell and "1000 POUND CLUB" on the right sleeve. They just don't hand them out at Newport Harbor. Four lifts (squat, power clean, snatch and bench press) totaling 1,000 pounds get you it.
No longer is Truxton aiming to survive the season as he did for the first time last year. He wants to be the guy with the ball in his arms to deliver game-changing plays.
And in his senior year, Truxton is producing like a go-to player for Newport Harbor.
Last week, Truxton's all-around effort gave Brinkley his 250th career victory as a coach. The Sailors upset defending Northern Division champion Palos Verdes, 34-33.
Going into the home opener, Truxton says he knew all about Brinkley pursuing win No. 250. Nevertheless, Truxton says he made sure not to talk about it much, not wanting to jinx things.
With his play, Truxton made sure Brinkley became the 23rd high school coach to reach the 250-win milestone in California. He caught touchdown passes of 71 and 20 yards, and he set up two touchdowns, the first with a 31-yard punt return and second with a 42-yard kickoff return.
The second return put the Sailors in position for a game-winning drive in the final minute.
"As soon as I returned the kick, I wasn't happy where I got [to, near midfield]," Truxton says, "but I knew the ball was coming to me on the next play."
Truxton went and got the ball quarterback Cole Norris threw his way on first down.
Somehow, the wide receiver came down with a 32-yard sideline pass. Before he headed out of bounds, Truxton dragged his feet to give him seven catches for 152 yards.
All along, Norris says he believed in Truxton's ability to beat the cornerback to the spot and then get underneath his pass. Getting the pass off proved almost as difficult as making the catch.
"Cole made a great play [by] stepping up in the pocket and throwing it on the run," says Truxton, who has hooked up with the junior 16 times for 281 yards and four touchdowns in two games this season. "The ball was … perfectly thrown, only where I could get it.
"I'm not getting the ball if we don't have him [at quarterback]."
Two plays later, the Sailors took the lead with a one-yard touchdown run. Then they looked at the clock. With 45 seconds left, they counted off the seconds before they celebrated with their coach.
To Brinkley, in his 36th season as a coach, 28th with the Sailors, the win just marked the team's first of the year. The triumph meant a lot to Truxton, though. He will never forget that he helped Brinkley get his 250th victory.
Truxton grew up with Newport Harbor's program. His parents took him to games as a kid. His older brother, Louis, played for Brinkley and won a CIF Southern Section Division VI title in 2005. He and his other brother, Kellon, served as team water boys back then.
Quest is the third and last Truxton sibling to suit up for Brinkley. He says he can relate to Brinkley. That might be hard to believe, as Truxton is 16 and Brinkley is 60.
The two do share the same birthday. His parents, Lou and Eileen, used to remind Truxton about it. Truxton says he has never brought up the birthday to Brinkley.
Their special day is Saturday, the day after the Battle of the Bay. Beating the Sea Kings for the seventh straight year might be a good reason for Truxton and Brinkley to celebrate their birthdays together a day early.
"That's the plan," says Truxton, fully aware that his brothers never lost in the Battle of the Bay. "For [the Sea Kings], this is their biggest goal all season because they're winning CIF championships like it's nothing over there, so all they look forward to, all they talk about is, 'Oh, we got you guys this year. This year's going to be different.' It never is."
Born: Sept. 21, 1996
Hometown: Newport Beach
Weight: 160 pounds
Coach: Jeff Brinkley
Favorite food: Cheesesteak
Favorite movie: "Friday"
Favorite athletic moment: Finishing with 12 receptions for 216 yards and three touchdowns in the Sailors' 31-28 come-from-behind overtime victory against Los Alamitos last year.
Week in review: Truxton finished with seven receptions for 152 yards and two touchdowns and he set up two touchdowns with punt and kickoff returns, leading the Sailors to a 34-33 upset of CIF Southern Section Northern Division champion Palos Verdes.