Column: Players like Angelou’s Caleb Ruano are praying for return of football
Angelou High football player Caleb Ruano has shed 45 pounds by working out at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Call it a plea. Call it a prayer. Call it an urgent appeal for help.
Caleb Ruano, a 17-year-old senior football player at Los Angeles Angelou High, is in his eighth month of working out on his own since the Los Angeles Unified School District closed campuses and barred its coaches from training students in person.
COVID-19 has not prevented Ruano from putting himself in position to play football this season. Once weighing 260 pounds, he told his coach, Gary Parks, at the end of last season that he wanted to move from offensive guard to defensive end after making second-team all-league.
“I chuckled,” Parks said about the phone call. His defensive coordinator was skeptical because Ruano would have to lose weight and get faster.
Ruano told Parks: “This is my regimen.”
With fitness centers and school weight rooms closed, the Argott family’s backyard became the training area for their three football playing sons.
Three variations of 150 push-ups. Three variations of 150 sit-ups. He got a mat, bought two 45-pound dumbbells and two 20-pound dumbbells, and started working out a minimum of two hours a day in his room. He ate chicken, red meat, vegetables and almond milk, and stopped eating candy and chips.
“He did it every day,” Parks said. “It became infectious. We had our Zoom meetings and I told him to share with the group. ‘Wow, you do that every day?’ Other kids joined him.”
Ruano dropped from 260 pounds to 205 pounds. His No. 74 double-X jersey won’t fit him anymore. He had to buy new pants and new shirts. Parks said he’s going to give him the choice of another uniform number this season.
He picked up a scholarship offer from an NAIA school as an offensive lineman. Someone is going to have to inform the recruiter he’s no longer big enough to be an offensive lineman. He’s at 215 pounds after missing a month of training because of a cut he got training at a park.
“I’m just using it as more as benefit than to slow me down,” Ruano said of the COVID-19 shutdown.
There have been 493 high school transfers reported in the first three months compared to 3,009 last year, amid uncertainty about the sports season.
The hard work has been recognized by his coaches and teammates. They can’t wait to see him in person to learn how well he’s going to be able to play defensive end when practice is supposed to begin on Dec. 14.
But that’s the challenge he and his teammates face attending an LAUSD school. Will the district’s leaders open their facilities to allow sports to resume? There are numerous districts across the Southland that are allowing conditioning to take place with safety precautions such as social distancing, monitoring players’ health through a special app and taking temperatures. LAUSD has a tentative plan to begin conditioning early next month.
Ruano has a message for the adult decision-makers.
“I’m giving all my prayers and trust they find a way to manage things to give me a football season,” he said. “I want to play for however long as I can, and I need this senior season to show colleges I’m better than they think. The NFL has started, other schools are starting and taking precautions, and I’m positive we can do it too.”
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