Lars Nootbaar is a 17-year-old senior born and raised in El Segundo, which might as well as double for Mayberry, N.C., the fictional town from "The
Fittingly, El Segundo High is located on Main Street. It's considered so safe that there's no locked gate to prevent someone from walking on campus in the middle of a school day. There are security cameras placed at strategic spots, but this is a beach community of some 16,500 where neighbors know neighbors and teenagers have been playing against each other since their kickball days in first grade.
"Life in El Segundo is awesome," said Nootbaar, a 6-foot-2 quarterback who's such a good athlete that he signed a letter of intent to play baseball for USC on Wednesday. "It's such a close-knit community. You feel at home whenever you're walking around, whether it's late at night or early in the morning."
Amid the skateboarders, surfers and jumbo jets taking off every couple of minutes from nearby
"His game has gone to a much higher level in the last two years, and he can still kill a baseball," Coach Steve Shevlin said. "We're seeing greatness grow up before us, because he's a special player in both sports."
He has 84 hits over the last two seasons in baseball, and he's a shortstop. But he has blossomed in football, too, and wishes he could do both in college. This season, he has passed for 2,002 yards and 25 touchdowns with one interception. Last season, he passed for nearly 3,000 yards.
"It's a baseball town," he said. "Playing football has been a side sport, but it's really caught my love. Friday nights are everything with me. There's no greater feeling than playing a home game in front of your crowd and getting a victory in front of your student section and knowing the whole community is rallying around you. It's just an awesome feeling."
Call it charisma, call it leadership, call it local knowledge, but whatever it is, teammates are willing to follow Nootbaar wherever he wants to take them.
"He put the team on his back and rode to victory," Shevlin said of last week's performance when the Eagles rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Santa Monica, 17-13.
There's Dutch in his family background and his first name comes from a great-great grandfather. His older brother, Nigel, was a tight end at El Segundo who went on to pitch for USC and was a 12th-round draft pick last summer.
As good as he is in baseball, there's no way Nootbaar wasn't going to play football too.
"I'm just a 17-year-old kid in high school and want to do as much as possible," he said.
If he leads El Segundo to an undefeated season and a championship, he might run for mayor and win in a landslide.
"If my offensive line are the ones helping me campaign, anything's possible with them in front of me," he said.
He'll have no trouble shaking hands, since everyone in El Segundo wants to be part of his magic touch.