When former USC football coach John McKay was asked about the number of times O.J. Simpson was carrying the ball, he responded by reminding the listener the football wasn’t very heavy, and that Simpson didn’t belong to a union. The ball still isn’t very heavy and Michael Medina doesn’t belong to a union, so it figures he’ll still get the ball an inordinate number of times when Cantwell High School plays host to Bell-Jeff in Friday’s Santa Fe League opener. Medina, admittedly a bit bruised and sore after averaging more than 30 carries a game through Cantwell’s first five games, says he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’ve got some aches and pains, some bruises here and there, but I’m OK, I’m fine,” Medina said Tuesday morning. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “When I carry that many times, if I’m helping my team, I feel good. I never get tired.” Medina definitely is helping his team. He has carried 168 times for 951 yards, an average of 5.7 yards per carry and 158.5 yards per game. That includes a part-time, 16 for 113 yards in Friday’s 21-10 win over Lucerne Valley in which he split time with Joe Aguilos. He has scored 10 touchdowns. At 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, Medina is not the physical prototype of the bruising, punishing ball carrier, yet head coach Pete Smolin says his performances belie his physical stature. “He is surprisingly strong, super strong for his size,” Smolin said. “He squats 350 pounds, more than twice his weight. He is very quick and very aggressive when he runs.” That latter definition, the aggressive part, is a major factor in Medina’s success. “He’s a tough kid,” Smolin said. “He’s got a little of that street mentality, that street attitude that can be intimidating. He doesn’t say much, but he’s a leader by example, more by deeds than by words.” Medina’s impact on the Cardinals’ program can be summed up in their offensive philosophy. “Kim Taylor, my offensive coordinator, and I installed this year’s offense actually based on Michael Medina,” Smolin said. He explained the blocking schemes are set up according to Medina’s ability to read defenses and to cut back against the flow of the play. Born in East Los Angeles, Medina grew up in Boyle Heights and played youth football for the East LA Bobcats and Montebello Indians. “Football is my life,” he said. “I’ve been playing since I was five (years old). It’s the only thing I know.” Medina has a hard-nosed philosophy based on accepting adversity as part of life and using it as a building block. His childhood environment could have been better, but he is quick to say it could have been worse. He says there was a time when he “was on the wrong path and hanging out with the wrong people” that he had some doubts he would ever graduate from high school. But not anymore. “That’s all straightened out now,” he said. “I don’t have those problems any more.” His grades are squared away, and while he admits school is not one of his favorite things, it is important in his life. “I do my homework,” he said. “Sometimes I have to push myself to do it, but that’s good for me. I know that school is good for me.” So is Cantwell’s football program, and Medina is good for it. “He’s a workhorse,” Smolin said. “He’s very dependable, very capable of stepping up to carry the team.” Medina said he would like to play football for USC, but he’s also realistic about his chances. If that doesn’t work out, he says he’s prepared to make the most of whatever opportunities are available. As far as he’s concerned, the best is yet to come. — Roger Murray can be reached at (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3046, or by e-mail at [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!