The Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier is turning as a refreshing ocean breeze disguises the reality of a triple-digit heat wave striking across Southern California.
On the boardwalk, mothers push strollers; bicyclists pass by admiring the pristine white sand. Tourists speaking German see a set of gymnastic rings and decide that hanging on the rings would make a perfect California selfie.
“I don’t think it gets better than this — the ocean, the breeze, the sand,” a shirtless Luca Diamont says. “It’s great.”
A skateboarder sees Diamont throwing a football while wearing a Venice High cap backwards and blurts out, “Can you do that in the NFL?”
“Maybe,” Diamont answers.
It’s summer break, and Diamont, a sophomore quarterback at Venice, is being trained by his brother, Alexander, a former All-City quarterback at Venice who spent four years at Indiana.
Luca is using the sand, the rings and the sun to prepare for the season ahead.
At 6 feet 1, 170 pounds, he’s coming off a freshman season in which he passed for 2,066 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Big brother says, “The sky is the ceiling for him. I firmly believe he’s the best quarterback in his class.”
These Diamonts have lots of chutzpah, and it probably comes from their father, Don, a soap opera star from “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.”
The brothers have learned that on the football field, hype and confidence can only take you so far. You have to perform, and Alexander (who also goes by the name Zander) is determined to teach Luca all the tricks and lessons he learned from being in the spotlight in high school and being a college quarterback in the Big Ten.
The biggest thing is keeping his head down and staying focused on Venice.
“The biggest thing is keeping his head down and staying focused on Venice,” he said. “It’s hard with all the hype and all the social media these days for kids to stay locked in on what they’re doing.”
The offseason is particularly important for quarterbacks, whether it’s about gaining strength, improving agility, working on footwork.
“It’s when you refine yourself,” Alexander said. “It’s crucial. The sand offers a lot of resistance, which is great for developing quickness in your feet.”
From demonstrating shoulder strength by pulling himself from one ring to another on a station of 10 rings to going through his footwork barefooted in the sand, Luca is following his brother’s workout routine with no questions asked.
“It’s like having a private quarterback coach that lives with you and that you hang out with,” Luca said. “I’ve always learned a lot and he’s always tweaking a few things, showing me what I could do better.”
Venice has always been good about developing quarterbacks under coach Angelo Gasca (think J.P. Losman), and to have Luca for four years on varsity is going to make Gasca very happy. He appreciates his former quarterback offering tips to his current quarterback.
“I think it’s a great situation and I’m totally comfortable with,” Gasca said. “I coached Alexander and Luca and he’s probably saying close to the same things.”
Luca has four college scholarship offers — Indiana, Utah State, North Texas and Texas San Antonio. He ran a 4.5 40-yard dash at a college camp this summer. More offers figure to come as he continues to show his combination of throwing ability, instincts and mobility.
Luca said the experience he gained last season has left him confident as he approaches this fall.
“Having that one year under my belt really helps me,” he said.
Now, if only Venice’s fall practices that begin on July 24 could be scheduled at the beach.