St. John Bosco's Falah preserves, protects

St. John Bosco's Falah preserves, protects

Published Aug. 22, 2012 1:29 p.m. ET

With a mother who's 5 feet 5 and a 6-0 father, 6-5, 275-pound Nico Falah of Bellflower St. John Bosco is a little confused.

"I don't know where I got the height from," he said. "I think God blessed me."

Falah's genes have given him a degree of athleticism, for an offensive lineman, that college recruiters keep gushing over.

"His athletics are off the charts," Coach Jason Negro said. "He has great feet. For a guy his size to be able to move that well is very unique for the position."

Left tackle, known as the blind side for most quarterbacks, is Falah's position, and he understands its importance to the team.

"The responsibility is big," he said. "You're in charge of the quarterback."

Last season, he tried to protect senior Rene Medina.

"I imagined Rene as my family member," he said. "I don't want anyone to touch him. I try to punish the defense."

Most intriguing about Falah is the difference in his personality on and off the field. Meet him without pads on and he's jolly and friendly. As soon as the game begins, everything changes.

"I've got an on and off switch," he said. "I'm the nicest guy you'll want to meet, but it's a different story on the field when you line up against me."

Forget that he's about to flatten a 5-10, 160-pound defensive back. He feels no guilt whatsoever.

"I don't know them," he said. "I'm probably not going to see them again. It's just three hours on a Friday night."

So he focuses on doing his job — protecting the quarterback and clearing a path for his team's ballcarriers. And he does it so well that he became part of an all-out recruiting competition involving USC and UCLA. He announced during the summer that he had committed to USC.

The offensive lineman class in Southern California this season is filled with top college prospects. Santa Margarita has two already committed to Pac-12 Conference schools — Erik Bunte (UCLA) and Dane Crane (Washington). Then there are San Clemente's Sean Harlow (Washington), Orange Lutheran's John Lopez (UCLA) and Colin Sutton (Colorado), and Corona Centennial's Cameron Hunt (California), among others.

Even though Falah was bombarded with phone calls from people trying to follow his recruitment, he said he enjoyed the attention.

He has come a long way since his freshman year, when he didn't know how to buckle his football belt and was clueless about what to do with his foam pads.

He could dunk a basketball but stopped growing, so football became his sport. He learned blocking techniques from his coaches and kept getting stronger, and now he's in position to make a name for himself as a blocker.

"I want to be considered one of the best offensive linemen in California, if not the country," he said. "My goal is every day to get better and better."

-Eric Sondheimer