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Hernando line quietly goes about its business

By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 4, 2002

BROOKSVILLE -- Some, John Humbert says, are born into it. Some grow into it.

Desire keeps them there, Steve Maxey says.

Anonymous in success and obvious in failure, offensive linemen are used to little credit and a heavy burden.

But with Hernando's running backs averaging 7.4 yards per carry and coming off a 290-yard performance in a 33-23 win over Central, the Leopard front five's contribution is blaring.

"Oh, my offensive line, they got the job done," said junior Rod Roberts, who opened the victory against the Bears with a 73-yard touchdown run and finished with 171 yards. "I got some great blocks."

That was not a given when Hernando (2-2) began the season, even though four of five projected line starters were seniors.

Humbert, the center, sophomore right tackle James Johnson and alternate left tackles Wayne Brown and Jesse Cooper were first-time starters. Junior tight end Kris Davis was new to starting on varsity. Right tackle Maxey was the veteran in his second year.

An intangible plus, however, was the line's cohesiveness.

"We all know each other pretty well," Humbert said. "You know someone right next to you real well, and you'll try hard not to let them down."

The lack of varsity experience was deceptive, coach Bill Browning says.

"They've all come through the program together, and they all played some last year out of necessity," Browning said. "That's proved to be pretty valuable."

Hernando's line is not massive, averaging 220 pounds -- Davis, at 6-foot-7, 310, skews that figure high -- but it's intelligent. Maxey and Humbert, the team's academic achievement winner last season, would not brandish that fact but admit they have much to compute.

"We have to know a lot," Maxey said. "That's not to say we're the smartest, but we're probably the smartest on the field at the time."

They don't want all the credit.

"We have a lot of talented backs," Maxey said. "They make the O-line look good, we make them look good. We open holes, and we let the backs do the rest. That's all we can do."

Jagren Castillo leads the Leopards with 458 yards and eight touchdowns. Roberts has 429 and three, respectively.

Even selfless offensive linemen indulge in a dream play, however.

"Busting that long run," Humbert said. "Against Central, when we busted it on the first play, it gets you going.

"That's what an offensive lineman wants -- to dominate on every single play of the game, just dominate your man and let the backs take it to the house," he said. "That's a lineman's dream. Three hundred yards in a game, that's our pride."

A little, just a little, congratulations helps too.

"I'm not looking for credit," Humbert said. "If Art or Jagren or Rod comes up and says, "Hey, good hole,' that's good enough for me."

Brant James can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 1407. Send e-mail to

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