The kids at the elementary school used to request visits from Manassas Park football player Bucky Griffith, who would read to them as part of his community service class.

Griffith liked the reading just fine, but he did not like the attention that came with it. The senior is a standout guard-linebacker at the school system's only high school, and he became a bit of a celebrity among the "Green Eggs and Ham" set, and it made him uncomfortable.

"Whenever I went down there, they'd always be like, 'There's Bucky Griffith, there's Bucky Griffith,' " the man himself said. "I'm not that type of person. Getting fame is pretty good, but I kind of like to stay back."

All guts, no story suits Griffith. He is interested in football, and winning, but not the trappings. His untiring style of play would dovetail nicely with teams from early in the program's 30-year history.

"Bucky is what I call a true Park kid, a hard-nosed kid who grew up here and doesn't back down from anything and enjoys playing football," Cougars Coach Jeff Lloyd said. "I mean that in the best way possible. I think he speaks volumes not only about who he is but what our city is. He's been everything to this program, he really has."

"He's what I'd refer to as one of the old Park boys," said Manassas Park assistant coach Joe McElfish, the head coach when the team reached the state final in 1986. "In the early days, we were just kind of known as a very tough, physical team. Not a whole lot of finesse. We'd come straight at you on offense and defense. That's kind of what Bucky is. He's a throwback to that tough, physical, in-your-face football."

McElfish knew that Griffith would take his "old Park" comment as a compliment, because "old Park" is a concept that Griffith understands. In fact, of all the players who have come through the Manassas Park program in the past several years, Griffith might have the most Manassas Park in him.

Born and raised in the community by Manassas Park graduates Harry and Karen Griffith, he has attended games at the school almost all his life and plays with an extra something absent from most players in well-populated areas -- civic pride.

"The people who have lived here for awhile are not just playing for ourselves, we're playing for everybody -- everybody who's ever put on a Manassas Park jersey," said Griffith, who lives two minutes by car from the school. "I don't really think about it when I'm on the field, but I'm thinking about it when I'm not on the field. You know you're playing for Manassas Park history.

"I know other players here from the 80s and 90s. I talk to those people a lot. I like playing at a single-A school because the whole city knows the team. Everyone's close."

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Griffith was an all-state offensive lineman last year, and recently was named to the all-Region B first team on both offense and defense. He is most valuable to the team at linebacker, where he plugs the middle. What the coaches appreciate about him most is that he never takes a play off, even though he plays full-time both ways.

Just as Griffith represents what Manassas Park football used to be, he represents what Lloyd and McElfish want it to be.

"It comes back to the way we teach our tackling," McElfish said. "We teach that we run our [jersey] numbers through the other guy. It's a tough way to tackle, and it takes a little bit of courage to do it, but Bucky kind of exemplifies that type of tackling. He's going to run his number through you.

"It doesn't matter who you are or what size you are. That's the way I'll remember Bucky."

That's also how the defending state champion Cougars hope that Giles players remember Griffith. Manassas Park plays the Spartans at 4 p.m. Saturday in Harrisonburg in the Virginia A Division 2 state championship.

Last season, a victory parade greeted the Cougars when they got home that evening from beating Powell Valley in the final. The players rode on fire trucks, and Lloyd was in the bucket of one with the trophy.

"It was pretty nice," Griffith said. "It just shows how good of a community, how small of a community, Manassas Park is. Most of the town was lined up down Manassas Drive waiting for us to come home."

Senior Bucky Griffith makes plays as a linebacker, above, and on the offensive line. He lives about a two-minute drive from the school. "You know you're playing for Manassas Park history," he said.GRIFFITH