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College notices lineman's work


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 19, 2001

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Gulf lineman Leo Irizarri is pumped up to play for Dana College next season -- literally.

The Buccaneers' tackle spent the off-season following a strict weightlifting and dieting regimen, adding nearly 20 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-3, 270-pound frame and 50 pounds to his bench press, now at 295.

"I'm definitely excited," he said. "A little nervous, but excited."

That work ethic helped him secure a scholarship package to play for the NAIA Vikings next season.

"As soon as football got done, he went to Gold's Gym and got on a program there," Gulf football coach Keith Newton said. "He got on a special diet and began pumping steel."

Yet Irizarri almost missed his chance to play college football.

After Newton had shown several college coaches film of Irizarri at a scouting combine at Springstead, many were interested in meeting the Gulf senior the next day during the workout session.

But Irizarri didn't make it. A miscommunication with another football player over who would drive to the combine left both out.

Newton was disappointed, but Irizarri made amends. He contacted the coaching staff himself, explained the mistake, sent more film, visited them during spring break, and came back committed to play at the school in Blair, Neb.

"It was lucky it happened," Irizarri said. "I missed (the combine) but I was still able to get their attention and send them videos. When I visited them, I really liked it a lot, and the coaches were really cool."

Said Newton: "He's a very coachable kid. He's got some potential and I think that's what they saw."

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