Column: Birmingham sophomore Arlis Boardingham has sights set on NFL

Birmingham sophomore receiver Arlis Boardingham is tackled by a San Pedro defender after a reception in the City Section Open Division semifinal on Nov. 22, 2019.
Birmingham sophomore receiver Arlis Boardingham is just beginnng to fulfill his athletic potential.
(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

It’s Thanksgiving morning. The temperature is in the low 50s. There’s a few rain drops. Lake Balboa Birmingham football players are walking onto their field for practice.

Sophomore Arlis Boardingham, who is 6 feet 4 and 205 pounds, arrives wearing a wool mask that covers his entire face except for his eyes. He’s also wearing a thermal long sleeve shirt under his jersey, gloves and compression pants. It’s as if he’s prepared to play at Lambeau Field in Green Bay during a snow storm.

“I don’t like to be cold,” he says. “My parents always tell me, ‘If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.’”

If you want to meet a 15-year-old with big plans, big dreams and big days ahead, it’s Boardingham, a receiver and defensive end who has all the qualities of someone going places.


“He’s still a puppy,” coach Jim Rose said. “When he becomes a dog, watch the bite on him.”

With size 15 shoes and growing strength, Boardingham is already making an impact. He’s closing in on 50 receptions with 10 touchdowns for an 8-4 Birmingham team that makes its first appearance in a CIF state championship bowl game, hosting Oxnard Pacifica on Saturday night in Division 2-A.

Rose said Boardingham is “10 times better’’ than he was as a freshman.

“If he’s 10 times better next year, holy cow. Watch out,” Rose said.

In helping Birmingham win the City Section Open Division championship game last week with a 27-20 win over Wilmington Banning, Boardingham dragged along four Banning players before finally being taken down on a 42-yard pass reception. He takes great pride when the ball is in his hands.

“It feels like you’re in control,” he said. ‘You’re the one in power. I like being able to control the destiny of the game. I like holding that responsibility and accountability of making or breaking a game.”

Boardingham’s father, Don, is Birmingham’s track coach. Boardingham’s first athletic event was running 100 meters as a 5-year-old.

“I was nervous but I knew I was going to be good,” he said.

He’s always been bigger and taller than most. He thinks he’ll end up at 6-5, 225 pounds. Rose believes Boardingham will be 245 pounds. “I think he’s going to be a monster,” Rose said.

Boardingham doesn’t go around boasting. He’s focused on pursuing his goal of playing football in college and beyond. He said after playing against City Section power Harbor City Narbonne last season, he learned plenty.


“It was a wakeup call,” he said. “I learned there’s better players out there and more players that could do what I could do. I didn’t like that.”

He immediately hit the weight room and started to work on running better pass routes. He’s also a long jumper and triple jumper. He finished second in the triple jump as a freshman at the City Section championship meet last spring at 43 feet 9 1/2 inches. His goal this spring is to reach 50 feet and make the state finals.

First, Birmingham will enter uncharted territory with its first state bowl game. The Patriots are considered the underdog against Southern Section Division 6 champion Pacifica (13-1), which has a terrific running back in Malik Sherrod (1,469 yards rushing, 34 TDs) and a big-time linebacker in Caleb McCullough.

“It’s an opportunity to make Birmingham history,” Boardingham said. “Everybody is nervous because we don’t know much about Pacifica, but we’re excited.”