Anyone who doubts Wakefield senior Zagwe Yemanu's potential on the football field need only consult a pickup truck.
Yemanu, a 6-foot-61/2, 380-pound defensive lineman, is beginning just his second season of organized football, but his size and raw talent have not escaped the notice of colleges such as Maryland and Virginia. Nor did they escape the notice of anyone who happened to be in the school parking lot one day this summer.
Wakefield coaches ran a drill in which players attempted to push a pickup truck across the parking lot. The task took a while for most players, but Yemanu had no such trouble.
"At first I was struggling with it, but then I got it rolling," Yemanu said. "I just sort of sprinted with the car. Everyone told me it looked like I was driving it."
"Whoa man," senior defensive end Dustin Valle responded when asked about Yemanu's performance. "Just 'wow' is what I thought. I didn't think he could push it that fast. It surprised me."
Valle, one of Yemanu's closest friends on the team, was instrumental in persuading him to try out for football. Previously, Yemanu, who moved from Canada before high school, had admired the sport, but did not want to take time away from his studies. By the end of his sophomore year, though, the nagging feeling that he had untapped potential -- not to mention the nagging of his teammates -- proved too much to resist.
After an uneven start to his career, Yemanu is beginning to grow into his body, Wakefield Coach Tim Churchill said. Yemanu often pushes over his teammates in practice because he doesn't know his own strength, but conditioning has been an issue. Last year, Churchill kept Yemanu in the game for only a few plays at a time, but the coach expects Yemanu to play every snap on defense this season and help out on the offensive line and at fullback.
"He needs to learn more about the game and work on his conditioning," Churchill said. "He's learning how to be competitive. We're watching him closely and hopefully he'll improve every time out there."
The college that takes a chance on Yemanu's improvement will not only acquire a budding football talent but a budding scientist as well. Yemanu carries a 3.5 grade-point average at Wakefield, and his favorite class is Advanced Placement Physics.
"I really like science because scientists take impossible things and make them happen," Yemanu said. "Just take the development of aviation. Some people thought that people would never reach the skies. Now we've reached the moon and gone even past that."
Churchill is hoping that Yemanu and the rest of his defense will reach new heights as well. The Warriors already have shown signs. Despite yielding 34 points in a season-opening loss to T.C. Williams last week, a first-quarter interception by junior D'Ales Haynie led to a Warriors touchdown, giving Wakefield the lead in a game for the first time since 2003. Strong defensive play, including consecutive sacks by junior Donte Berry during a Titans drive deep in Warriors territory, also kept Wakefield competitive for the remainder of the first half.
"I just want to get to the QB and get to the ball," Yemanu said. "I've improved a lot since last year and the defense has improved a lot since last year, too. Everything seems like its going to connect this season."