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Despite Charges, Prep Football Standout Remains Tackle-Eligible

Pat Lazear
Wheaton senior Pat Lazear, with ball, looks to elude both opposing tacklers and the long arm of the law this season. (Joel Richardson - The Washington Post)

"My take on the seriousness of the offense and your role in it weighs very heavily against you going to juvenile court. Good people do not do this. This is not 'boys will be boys.' "

Schweiger also had his motion to move his charges to juvenile court denied last week; next week, Ashley, Krouskas and Warren will have similar motions heard.

The same week that Lazear's motion was heard, his new teammates submitted their choices for team captain, and they picked a player who is still working to memorize his teammates' names. It was a selection that said less about character than ability, Lazear admitted. Just by showing up, Lazear transformed a mediocre team into a threat to make Maryland's 3A West Region playoffs. Wheaton, which won its only state title in 1996, has not had a winning varsity season for three years, and Lazear has infused the team with optimism that it will end that streak.

"They know this is a way better team with me," Lazear said. "I'm a captain because I'm going to be a leader on the football field. I'm going to make sure we go out every Friday night and get things done."

On Aug. 14, the night before Lazear practiced with Wheaton for the first time, a handful of Wheaton players gathered to talk about their new teammate. Elijah Davis, a talented running back, invited four starters to his house and logged on to a recruiting Web site. They replayed 10-second clips of Lazear's highlights for almost an hour. "We were all gathered around the computer just like in shock," Davis said. "It was like . . . 'This guy is going to make us good.' "

Without so much as playing in a game, Lazear has already earned a reputation as his team's hardest hitter and most athletic offensive threat. At 6 feet 2 and 225 pounds, Lazear runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds. He made 124 tackles at Whitman last season, and he gained 1,068 yards and scored 18 touchdowns as a running back.

Lazear said his ankle monitor is light enough that he hardly notices it when he plays, and it will not encumber him. Even though Maryland high school players are not allowed to wear jewelry on the field, Lazear will be able to play with the monitor. "The umpire will inspect it before the game and make sure it is adequately padded," said Ned Sparks, executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association. Wheaton coaches said Lazear fits well in their offensive and defense schemes, which Neal designed to spread the field and maximize the importance of speed. Lazear will start at inside linebacker, and he'll rotate with Davis, a senior, at fullback and running back.

"I'd be a fool to take him off the field," Neal said. "He'll play both ways all the time and do everything for us. Pat sees this as an opportunity to put Wheaton back on the map."

That Lazear gets that chance has generated little controversy. A few parents called Wheaton's athletic director, but he said most feedback remained positive. The county school board received about 10 letters in June pertaining to the charged students, and most consisted of family friends offering support. The letters echoed a common theme: Even teenagers who make mistakes need to participate in school.

But football?

"He wouldn't be playing on Friday or Saturday or anytime" in Prince George's County, said a football coach from that county who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. "That just isn't happening. Let's be real."

In Lazear's hearing last week, the judge asked Angela Lazear if she considered punishing her son by taking away football. "We don't look at football as an extracurricular activity," she said. "We look at it as an opportunity . . . to pay for his school. . . . We have never considered that. It would ruin his future."

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