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Jakob Galloway wasn’t a natural at running back, but he has a gift for it now

A football player breaks loose.
Jakob Galloway of Banning breaks loose. He had eight games rushing over 100 yards as a sophomore.
(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Third in a series of stories profiling top high school football players in the Southland by position.

Jakob Galloway of Wilmington Banning might as well have shouted “abracadabra” after catching a short swing pass in a football game against Elsinore, because what happened next was magical.

By the time he reached the end zone on a 42-yard touchdown play, eight defensive players took shots at trying to tackle him. Several made contact. Three actually got their arms around him. Somehow, he escaped each time.

At 5 feet 10 and 220 pounds, the senior running back has stamped himself as the best at his position in the City Section based on a sophomore season in which he helped Banning reach the Open Division championship game while rushing for 1,276 yards and 21 touchdowns as a 15-year-old. He continued his improvement during a brief spring season, rushing for 137 and 181 yards in two games before being shut down to prevent injury.

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“He’s still a baby,” coach Raymond Grajeda said.

Galloway played primarily as a linebacker in his freshman year at Banning.

“Nobody was looking at him at running back,” Grajeda said.

By spring practice, Banning’s No. 1 running back decided not to play. Grajeda turned to Galloway, who needed a complete tutorial on how to play the position.

“I’m more of an aggressive runner, and that comes from playing linebacker,” Galloway said.

He made his first varsity start in the season opener against L.A. Cathedral. As soon as he scored his first touchdown on a short run, he said it made him feel comfortable.

“I was, ‘Wow, I can get used to this,’” he said. “The adrenaline is rushing through. That’s a great feeling. I was really proud of myself.”

With each game, Galloway became more confident.

“I wasn’t thinking. I just knew what I had to do,” he said.

Galloway ended up gaining more than 100 yards in eight games.

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“The rest is history,” Grajeda said. “He is a linebacker playing running back. He is a ground-and-pound running back. It’s give him the ball and he’ll pound you. If it’s a defensive back, he’ll be run over. If it’s a linebacker, he’ll get a headache. His hands are as big as a basketball player’s hands.

“Last year he was a 15-year-old kid running the football with no direction and all talent. This year will be a great developmental year and senior [season this fall] will be icing on the cake.”

Nicknamed “Cinco” for his No. 5 jersey, he remembers playing football “because my mom made me play.”

“I was too aggressive,” he said.

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His size and strength didn’t match his age.

“A lot of people think I’m older,” he said. “Everybody makes jokes, ‘We need to see your birth certificate.’ They don’t believe it.”

His mother died before he reached high school, and his father has tried to keep him on a path to success on and off the field. This month, his family faced a crisis with eviction. Galloway isn’t letting anything stop him.

He attends Banning’s Firefighter Magnet, which gives students the opportunity to learn from the Los Angeles Fire Department. He has committed to San Jose State.

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If his magnet classmates ever need someone to run up the stairs of a smoke-filled building in rapid fashion, they know Galloway would be the choice. Just get out of the way and watch him run.

Thursday: Sam Yoon, L.A. Loyola offensive lineman.

RUNNING BACKS TO WATCH

Players, School, Ht., Wt., Year, Comment

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Raleek Brown, Mater Dei, 5-8, 185, Sr. Oklahoma commit is fast and elusive.

Jakob Galloway, Banning, 5-10, 220, Sr. Loves to break tackles and run over tacklers.

Max Garrison, St. Francis, 5-10, 185, Sr. Four-year standout.

Floyd Chalk, Bishop Alemany, 5-9, 185, Sr. Watch him run wild.

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Desmin Jackson, Orange Lutheran, 5-10, 180, Sr. Ready to show great improvement.

Jason Jones, Sierra Canyon, 5-9, 185, Sr. Could be best player on team.

Rayshon Luke, St. John Bosco, 5-8, 160, Sr. Speed separates him.

Jadyn Ott, Norco, 5-11, 195, Sr. Cal commit returns to Southland with big expectations.

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Tahj Owens, Loyola, 5-11, 185, Sr. Has explosiveness and toughness.

Dijon Stanley, Granada Hills, 6-1, 170, Jr. 400-meter runner is big-play weapon.


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