Linebacker is not the only position where Mique Juarez excels

Linebacker is not the only position where Mique Juarez excels
Football star Mique Juarez will line up at a number of positions for North Torrance High School this season, but is already considered one of the top linebackers in the country. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

It was a bucket list moment for 17-year-old linebacker Mique Juarez of North Torrance High. He had a window seat for his first-ever plane ride flying from LAX to Portland, Ore., last month for a football competition.

"As the plane was going up, I was, 'Oh my gosh,'" he said. "I started to look outside. I love rollercoasters, so it became easier for me. But looking down, I was, 'Wow, I'm super high. Don't look down anymore.' Then I got used to it."

A homebody born and raised in Torrance, Juarez is a 6-foot-2, 226-pound senior who could be taking several more plane rides in the coming months. Even though he's committed to USC, his talented football skills are causing college recruiters to keep pursuing him. His trip to Oregon encouraged him to continue exploring his options.

"I can only imagine how other states are also beautiful, so I want to take that opportunity to see what's out there," he said.

Convincing him to leave Southern California will be tough. He has already demonstrated unwavering loyalty to North Torrance, where his mother, father, uncles and aunts all attended. He has made it his duty to lead the Saxons to success.

RELATED: Linebackers to watch this high school football season

“I took the sword from them and started my legacy,” he said.

There are few players in Southern California with more versatility than Juarez, whose speed and strength allows him to play a variety of positions on the field. He’s going to play quarterback on offense, and he has played every position on defense at some point in his prep career.

“Versatility is a great word for him,” Coach Todd Croce said. “He can cover well, he can play physically at the line, he can rush the passer. He’s gifted in so many ways.”

Outside linebacker will be his position in college, and it fits Juarez well.

“What I like is you have to be aggressive to play that position and you have to have a high football IQ,” he said. “You need to be fast and physical with your opponent.”

For Juarez to receive attention as one of the top players in Southern California validates his decision to stick with his home-town school.

“In this day and age kids like to bounce around,” Croce said. “His family has come through North. It’s awesome for him to stick with it.”

Said Juarez: “It’s hard to get attention at North, but my dad, my family always supported me, ‘Don’t worry. You’re going to get this shot, this chance.’ I always believed them. I kept putting in the work. It’s helpful to not give up if you want to do something.”

The fact USC Coach Steve Sarkisian, a graduate of rival West Torrance, offered Juarez a scholarship makes the Saxons smile.

“We know on the inside, it’s West vs. North, and he has to give in, ‘OK, I have to take a North kid,’” Croce said of Sarkisian. “He knows this one is special.”