Sports

Big time

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

Atonio Lindsey’s eyes light up when the word “quarterback” is mentioned.

Let’s just say the 6-foot-1, 280-pound Federal Way High School defensive lineman isn’t a big fan of the “pretty boy” signal-callers.

Lindsey shows that disgust every time he steps onto a football field and the best way he can express his true feelings is by driving a quarterback into the ground.

“I just love it so much,” is his description of a sack.

“He just licks his chops when he sees the quarterback,” said John Meagher, Lindsey’s coach at Federal Way. “He has got a quick first step. But he has another gear when he gets in the red zone, which is when he sees the quarterback. He makes that distance seem awful short.

“I have seen a lot of quarterbacks get up staggering. He has made a lot of them pay.”

G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time), as his coaches sometimes call him, isn’t shy about his exploits on the defensive line. All season long, Lindsey has been going up against some of the best offensive line prospects in Washington. Players like Ryan Bush, a 6-4, 280-pounder from Rogers, and Aaron Klovas, a 6-6, 300-pound monster from Bethel, are two of the highest-recruited lineman on the West Coast. Bush has already committed to play next year at the University of Washington and Klovas has his choice of any college in the nation.

“I don’t think they can block me,” Lindsey admits.

But we haven’t really had the chance to find that out this football season. Lindsey hasn’t seen too many one-on-one matchups in the Eagles first eight games and that is starting to wear on the big fella. The 18-year-old with the 3.2 grade-point average has been double- and triple-teamed on most every snap.

“It’s been crazy,” Lindsey admits. “I never envisioned that it was going to be like this. I get blocked by one guy and there are two other guys right there and then you get by them and there is a running back. It’s really frustrating.”

Frustrating on Friday night’s, but Lindsey expected the attention from opposing offensive lines coming into his senior year. During the summer he made quite an impression on college recruiters at some big-time programs. Lindsey was invited to summer camps at the University of Washington, the University of Oregon and Nebraska and participated in the prestigious Nike Combine in Seattle. At the camps, coaches time kids in the 40-yard dash, test for things like bench press reps and vertical leaps.

“It’s kind of a meat market,” Lindsey said.

Right now, Lindsey lists Nebraska as his number-one “dream” choice and he is planning a recruiting trip to Pullman in mid-December to check out the Cougar program.

“I really like Nebraska,” he said. “The coaching staff showed me a lot. Their nfacilities are amazing.”

There is little doubt that Lindsey has the size and attitude to play on the defensive line at the Division I level, according to Meagher. But Lindsey doesn’t have any scholarship offers on the table, like a lot of the other top recruits in the area. The early offers are usually made during the springtime recruiting period and Lindsey “should be getting his offers in the second or third week in January.” National Letter of Intent signing day comes in the early part of February. That is the first day high school athletes can sign with a school.

Lindsey has been on college recruiters’ radar since his freshman year in 2000. A year that Lindsey spent outside of the Federal Way school district because he got tired of dominating the line of scrimmage during his junior high days at Illahee. After two years of football on Illahee’s varsity, Lindsey transferred to Kennedy High School before his freshman year so he could play varsity football at the four-year, private Catholic school in Burien.

During his seventh- and eighth-grade football seasons, Lindsey weighed well over 220 pounds and would carry around would-be blockers like a bag of groceries.

“It just got kind of old,” Lindsey said about junior high football.

During his freshman season at Kennedy, Lindsey started on the Lancers’ defensive line and was even named all-league for one of the better teams in the state, but the commute from his family’s Federal Way home was too much.

“I had to wake up and I would get to school at 7 a.m. and classes didn’t even start until 8 a.m. because I couldn’t drive yet,” he said. “So I had to sit around and then my mom couldn’t pick me up until 6:30 or 7 p.m.”

So Lindsey transferred back to Illahee and started up at Federal Way his sophomore year.

“I’m pretty happy that he came back,” Meagher said. “He was an impact guy right out of the gates for us.”

To say the least. During his sophomore year, Lindsey led the SPSL South in quarterback sacks with eight during the Eagles’ 6-3 season and logged five sacks as a junior when Federal Way posted a 7-3 record and a first-round loss to Bothell in the state playoffs. A loss that left a real bad taste in Lindsey’s mouth entering his final season for the Eagles.

But things haven’t worked out the way Lindsey and the rest of his teammates had hoped. This season was supposed to be a showcase year for Lindsey. One last time throwing around South Puget Sound League offensive lineman. A final go-round hearing the opposing quarterback’s breath being sucked out of his lungs when he puts his facemask in the middle of their back. And, most importantly, leading his Eagles into the state playoffs for the second year in a row.

Things haven’t quite happened that way. Federal Way enters tonight’s game against Curtis with a 1-7 record and are weeks away from being in contention for a postseason berth.

“This has definitely been a learning experience,” Lindsey said. “I’ve learned how to persevere and how to keep my team close knit. I’ve never been on a losing team in anything.”

The Eagles haven’t just lost games, they’ve lost games in excruciating fashion. Four of Federal Way’s losses have come after they went into the fourth quarter tied or with leads.

“It has been a frustrating season,” admitted Meagher. “That’s for sure.”

Kind of like trying to block Antonio Lindsey.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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