GLENDALE — For the first time since perhaps the opening kickoff, Glendale High junior two-way football player Daniel Jung is healthy.
Such a revelation hardly sounds newsworthy, except when that nugget is taken into consideration with Jung’s efforts so far this season.
The 5-foot-10 running back and defensive back leads the Nitros with 779 rushing yards this season (97.4 average per contest) through eight contests with eight scores, while also hauling in eight receptions for 91 yards and two touchdowns.
On defense, Jung is sixth on the squad with 32 tackles, has intercepted one pass and has recovered one fumble while causing another three.
“It seems like every time there’s a big play to be made, he’s making them,” Glendale Coach John Tuttle said. “He’s a good kid, both on and off the field.”
The problem for Tuttle and Co. has been keeping Jung on the field.
While the junior has technically missed only one game this season, he hasn’t seen any action in an additional eight quarters while having played hurt most of the season.
“It’s been an up-and-down year with me just trying to stay up,” Jung said as his Nitros (3-6, 1-5 in league) are preparing for their season finale Friday at Moyse Field at 7 p.m. versus intracity archrival Hoover (2-7, 0-6). “I had a bunch of injuries – I want to say four – that have kept me out.”
For those keeping score, Jung says he has had two different neck and leg injuries this season, ranging from a stinger to a Charley horse.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Jung was not available in what turned out to be Glendale’s biggest defeat, a 56-14 setback to Burbank at Memorial Field two weeks ago.
“I can’t say we’d win that game if he played, but I think we would have at least been closer,” Tuttle said. “Daniel is just that type of player.”
In all three of Glendale’s victories, Jung has been instrumental.
The second-year varsity player took the opening handoff of the 2013 season 86 yards for a touchdown on an evening in which he rushed for 220 yards and totaled 282 yards of offense with four touchdowns as Glendale romped to 41-3 victory over visiting San Gabriel on Sept. 6.
“That was a big day and I really have to give my [offensive line] the credit,” Jung said. “I’m the one who does the running, the scoring, but those guys open the holes and make me look good.”
In the very next game, Jung rushed for two touchdowns and 64 yards on 11 carries, but exited before halftime after going down hard on a tackle with a neck injury.
“That was a tough game to come out of. I was feeling pretty good until then,” Jung said.
Subsequently, Jung’s Nitros lost a 27-20 contest to La Cañada in the final two minutes.
From that point on, the pattern of big plays and nagging injuries appeared to intertwine.
Jung rushed 19 time for 115 yards and a touchdown in Glendale’s 23-7 nonleague victory versus South Pasadena. In that contest, Jung also had an interception and a fumble recovery and appeared to be back on track.
Yet, a few days later, Jung hurt his right leg in practice and was only available for one carry versus Burroughs — albeit a spectacular 72-yard touchdown run on the Nitros’ first play from scrimmage that scored one of Glendale’s two touchdowns in what was a 35-14 loss to the Indians.
The low point of the season came for Jung when he sat out versus Burbank on Oct. 24.
“You want to be out there with your teammates,” said Jung, who was recovering from two injuries. “But maybe the time off was exactly what I needed.”
The following week, Jung led the Nitros back to victory lane.
The junior carried 29 times for 193 yards and one touchdown in Glendale’s 23-20 win over Pasadena.
Glendale, which led, 20-7, at the half, surrendered 13 straight points before securing the victory on a 29-yard field goal from Martin Marin.
“Those are the type of games this program would have just folded a couple of years back. That’s what the guys were saying at least,” Tuttle said. “It’s good to get this program going forward and a lot of that success is due to guys like Daniel.”
With the season culminating Friday, Jung senses something unfamiliar.
“I feel really, really good. I’m as close to 100% as I can be and I haven’t been able to say that in a long time,” Jung said. “I’d love to send our seniors out on a win and now that I’m feeling good, I’m going to do everything I can to do that.”