He took a pounding each week, playing the role of a human pinball. His body was left bruised and it yearned for a break. Yet Alex Rivas wouldn't have it any other way.
Whether it stemmed from bouncing off defenders when the East Meadow senior ran the ball from his fullback position or fending off blockers and then making the tackle from his middle linebacker spot, Rivas' body took a beating worse than a bass drum.
"Every Sunday, I felt like I got run over by a truck," Rivas said. "I like to say it's equivalent to taking a bat and beating yourself. It's very painful. But you've got to do what you've got to do. I love the sport."
Rivas, the recipient of the Thorp Award presented annually by Newsday to the most outstanding football player in Nassau, was a marked man. Defenses would game plan to stop him, knowing he was the key to the Jets' offense. But he still rumbled for 1,013 yards and scored 13 touchdowns.
The other finalists were Farmingdale's Steve Probst, Wantagh's Anthony Biscardi and Hempstead's Terrell Williams.
East Meadow graduated 36 seniors from its 2006 squad and Rivas was the lone starting returnee on offense, leaving him to shoulder a bulk of the load. A three-year starter, he carried the Jets to a 5-4 record in Conference I and an appearance in the county semifinals against Farmingdale at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium, a place Rivas says doubters never believed East Meadow would return to in 2007.
"To me, the word great is very overused," East Meadow coach Vinny Mascia said. "But I believe great is when everybody is trying to stop you and you are still doing your thing. To me, that's greatness. If that's the guy they've got to stop and they still can't stop you, that's greatness. And that's what he did this year. Everybody just loaded up the box and played all these different defenses to stop Alex Rivas and he had an unbelievable year."
Listed at 5-10, 230 pounds, Rivas wasn't too shabby on defense either, calling all the plays and deciding when to check down and audible into a different coverage. He was a sideline-to-sideline linebacker and made plays against the run and pass. He was solid at covering the underneath receiver routes and got physical when he needed to, shedding blockers as if they were paper weights on the way to making 93 tackles.
Rivas read certain plays, such as the counter, extremely well thanks to the considerable time he spent studying film. In short, he was a playmaker.
"He's unblockable, he really is," said East Meadow assistant Steve Anderson, who serves as the defensive coordinator. "And once he gets into you, you are going down."
Or, in the case of a weight bar, going up. When taking bench press tests, Mascia usually puts 185 pounds on the bar for repetitions. Rivas got tested at 275 pounds, otherwise the coaches would've been there all night waiting until he tired. He did 15 reps.
Squats? No sweat for Rivas. He can squat 500 pounds, but the coaches tested Rivas and everyone else at 315. "When he gets to 30 [reps]," Mascia recalled, "he turns to me and with a smile on his face and he says, 'Do I got to keep going or is that enough for you?' God only knows how many he would have done."
Rivas, who also boasts a 100 weighted grade-point average and a 1200 SAT score, is stronger than anyone Mascia has coached during his 25 varsity seasons at East Meadow. That includes recent second-team Big Ten selection and fellow Thorp Award winner Rich Ohrnberger of Penn State, and Boston College's John Elliott.
So far Hofstra, Lafayette, Lehigh, Princeton, Columbia, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are seriously recruiting Rivas. But he isn't drawing as much interest on the Bowl Division level as he'd like, and believes it's because he doesn't have the prototypical height some college coaches look for. All he wants is for someone to give him the opportunity and that will serve as a motivating factor.
"I am a tough player," Rivas said. "If you want me to run somebody over, I am going to run somebody over. I don't have to be a 6-2 guy to do that."
Alex Rivas Career stats
Tackles for loss
COMPILED BY ANDY SLAWSON