Size matters in football, but don’t tell that to Fillmore’s Aiden Bankowski

Senior Aiden Bankowski of Fillmore is a 4-foot-3, 120-pound defensive lineman offering a constant "positive influence."
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Fearlessness. Courage. Passion.

Those are the character traits immediately visible when watching senior Aiden Bankowski of Fillmore High participate with his football teammates.

Wearing a white bandana, white cut-off T-shirt and black shorts, Bankowski was at Simi Valley High on Saturday celebrating his 17th birthday during the start of summer football workouts that featured a seven-on-seven passing tournament and lineman competition.

He’s 4 feet 3, weighs 120 pounds and plays defensive line. He finally got to join the football team last season.


“I always liked football and finally got permission from my mom,” he said.

Born with a form of dwarfism, Bankowski also wrestles and used to play baseball and basketball. His positive outlook fits in perfectly with the vision of Fillmore coach Charlie Weis, who preaches the experience of having fun in the sport.

“Just like all the other kids, Aiden comes out here and enjoys being part of the football team,” Weis said. “He’s a positive influence. He’s relentlessly supportive of his teammates and does everything every other athlete on the team does. He never makes excuses, never misses a day. He’s in every weight training session, every speed and conditioning session.

“The guy just represents what it means to work hard and face extreme odds and yet persevere and be positive when doing it.”

Bankowski said his biggest challenge last season on the defensive line was dealing with the weight difference.

“I had a fun time,” he said. “I enjoyed it. With my team, everyone has 60, 70 pounds on me.”

This season, he’s trying running back, too.

Aiden Bankowsi of Fillmore might be the smallest on a football field, but he's ready to compete.
Aiden Bankowsi of Fillmore might be the smallest on a football field, but he’s ready to compete.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Weis said Bankowski received “significant playing time last year and is probably everyone’s favorite player in town. When he goes in, the crowd goes absolutely nuts.”

You can see the loyalty and love teammates have for him. After a brief interview, Bankowski returned to workouts and received a universal ovation. When he stands next to anyone, they always seem to have his back. He’s one of them. They watch over him and won’t let anything happen to him.

Asked about the response when opponents see him on the field, Bankowski said, “Most of it is positive. You get some negative comments. I ignore it. I’ve always been a positive person. Someone is going to say something, someone is going to give a look, I don’t care.”

Initial concerns his parents had about safety have been eased.

“After last season they’re OK with it,” he said.

Weis said you’ll see Bankowski on the field in the fall.

“He represents everything good,” Weis said.