Grant Owen is a bit of a running joke on the La Cañada High football team, but he takes it as a compliment.
"One of our jokes actually is because we're really thin on lineman we joke he can play there for us if we need it because he does everything else," Spartans linebacker Anders Iverson said. "I think he is second string for everything."
Sure, Owen may only be 5 foot 10 and 180 pounds, but there seems to be nothing he can't do on offense. The line is about the last spot he hasn't played with the Spartans.
"We might put him at center if we need it," new La Cañada Coach James Sims joked. "He's that type of kid."
Owen, a senior, first displayed his versatility with the varsity squad last year. Not only did he start three games at quarterback after starter Matt Jones was injured, but he was the team's No. 1 wide receiver with a team-high 11 receptions for 189 yards and was one of many running backs in the Spartans' stable, as he finished with 174 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries.
"On offense I am looking to not get the ball every time, but be in a position where I have to force teams to respect my athletic ability," said the 17-year old Owen. "I am planning on catching the ball, running the ball and throwing the ball this season."
That's exactly what Sims has in store for La Cañada's opponents this season.
"You can put him anywhere on the field and the other team has to know where he's at," Sims said. "Defensively, he is our leader and he is our big playmaker.
"He is definitely a quarterback on defense. He can see the coverages and make the adjustments right out there on the field."
Despite all his offensive ability, it's on defense where Owen really shines. It's where he earned first-team All-Rio Hondo League honors as a safety, while picking up a second-team nod at receiver and on the All-Area squad in 2011.
"It is so reassuring to know if you get beat that he is going to be there to cover for you," Iverson said. "With players like Grant and [safety] Mario [Del Cueto] we don't have to worry because they are going to be there.
"He has a lot of vision and understands the game. He seems to know what the quarterback is going to do and he is always in the right spot."
Owen plans on building on his impressive junior season where he recorded a team-high 60 tackles – 16 more than any other Spartan – an interception, caused a fumble and defended a team-high 11 passes.
"I see myself coming in this year just trying to be an anchor, especially on defense, someone our team can rely upon," Owen said. "If we need someone to make a big play, make a tackle or interception, I want to be that guy."
Numbers aren't what the La Cañada captain concerns himself with, though.
"It's nice to see your name with 15 tackles on Saturday when you look in the paper, but what I am concerned with is if we won and if we didn't win why not," Owen said.
The senior also commands the respect of his teammates after his breakout junior year and since then he's received scholarship offers and drawn considerable interest from some NCAA Division III and Ivy League schools.
Owen said he is looking to take an "academic route" for college, possibly looking to go pre-med with an interest in neuroscience. He is more than qualified to do so with a 4.3 grade-point average and four AP classes on his schedule this year.
He knows there's still work to be done this year, especially after what the Ivy League football coaches told him when he visited their camps this summer.
"They told me have a good senior year and perform well and good things will happen," Owen said.
That's exactly where his focus is.
"A good year is one for our team to get a home playoff game and win a playoff game, that's one of my goals this year," he said. "Individually, I am looking to just establish myself as one of the top players in this area and to prove to other teams and schools I can play."