CHAMPION - It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or even a football expert, really) to realize that Matt Gorrell doesn't fit the mold of a typical nose guard.
The senior stands at just 5 feet, 7 inches and weighs just 190 pounds - more the build of a linebacker or even safety at the high school level. Therefore, whenever Gorrell lines up against offensive linemen, they tend to underestimate him.
They do so at their own risk, however, as Gorrell has proven to be a menace so far in his high school career. Just in his junior season, he recorded 61 tackles (nine for a loss) and three sacks, while causing a fumble and intercepting a pass.
"I really like to shock (people)," Gorrell said. "They look at me and think, 'He's small - I can take him.' But then, when I get up underneath them, they're like, 'Wow.'
"My freshman year when we played Brookfield, I was up against a kid who was about 6-9, almost 400-pounds. I kept going underneath them, and I kept getting past him."
Can you blame those offensive linemen, especially the kid from Brookfield, when he entered high school at the same height he is now and weighed 160 pounds? Even his own coach somewhat misjudged the impact Gorrell would have when the nose guard first entered high school.
"You know what, looking at him, I always knew he had some special quality about him, but if you looked at his size, you'd probably say, 'Ah, this kid, he's going to play but not right away,' " Champion coach Terry Howell said. "Matt worked extremely hard with some good players on this roster, and he did a nice job for us and got it done."
While he is undersized, Gorrell uses his quickness, his strength and his determination to become more than a handful for his opponents on both sides of the ball. (Gorrell also plays on the offensive line for the Golden Flashes.) Howell said Gorrell can bench press 340 pounds and also is a monster at squats.
Those attributes allow Gorrell to play a lot bigger than he actually is, Howell said.
"He's got tremendous speed, and he's extremely strong," Howell said. "He has a nose for the football, and he has great passion for the game. All those things combined, he's a pretty talented individual."
Not that Gorrell is all business all the time - he also seems to be quite the comedian. On Champion's photo day in early August, he and his fellow seniors took some photos with the cheerleading squad, and the football players ended up holding the cheerleaders pom poms. None of the players had more fun with it than Gorrell, though, messing around with them in between shots.
Still, Gorrell said he understands in which situations he can have some fun and in which ones he must take in an earnest manner.
"Yeah, I like to have fun, but when things get serious, I get serious," Gorrell said.
Gorrell and his Golden Flashes come into this season with the county's longest playoff drought of 20 years and lost their top three leading rushers from last fall, who accumulated 2,262 yards on the ground. That doesn't damper the Golden Flashes' spirit, Gorrell said, as they expect to improve upon a 3-7 season.
"We have a lot," Gorrell said. "We have big, high expectations because we want that drive, we want to win this year."
If Champion does have a successful season, odds are the small man in the middle will play a big role in it.