Onrushing tacklers and opposing ball-carriers are no obstacle. East Meadow's Billy Andrle meets those head-on and without hesitation. He thrives on action.
Awards and attention, however, he could do without.
"I kind of wish I never got the spotlight. I'd rather be the player who comes out of nowhere; the kid no one knows about," said Andrle, who last year became only the third junior to win the Thorp Award, given to Nassau County's most outstanding player.
That accomplishment -- earned after the 5-10, 230-pound fullback/linebacker compiled 1,307 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns, plus 49 tackles and five sacks in only eight games -- emphatically eliminated any chance that Andrle will come out of nowhere this season.
"I know, I know," he said with a self-deprecating laugh. "If I have to, I'll take the attention, but to be honest, I hate it. Some people get cocky and sometimes it ruins kids. I don't want to be one of those people."
No chance. At a recent practice, Andrle hardly touched the ball as the Jets ran through numerous team drills that involved passing and handing off to other wingbacks in East Meadow's flex-bone. But he blocked furiously, executed play fakes expertly and never put his head down.
"I know I'm going to get the ball a decent amount of time," Andrle said. "But we have to work on different things to get some of the attention off me. It would be easier for other teams to stop us if it was just me."
Easier, but not easy. Andrle could improve on last year's stats if the Jets make a deep playoff run as he again will be the focal point of the offense and the leader on defense. He has the chance to become the second player to win the Thorp twice. Amos Zereoue of Mepham was so honored in 1993 and '94.
"I think inside, it's something he really wants, but you'll never know because he really doesn't show anything," Jets coach Vinny Mascia said. "He keeps things to himself. He plays and practices very hard but he doesn't talk. Even asking him to be a captain was tough. I said, 'Billy, I need you to be a captain this year.' He goes, 'Coach, I'd really rather lead by example.' I said, 'That's fine. You don't have to be the shouter captain. We've got other guys that can do that. But I need you to be up front or else everyone will wonder what's wrong with you.'
"He doesn't talk about himself. Even with all that went on last year, awards are something he just doesn't discuss. He's almost embarrassed by them."
Teammates prey on his shyness.
"They tease me all the time. On the field and off it. Once I got the award, everyone was like, 'Look it's Thorp.' It lasted for months before it got a little old and people stopped," Andrle said. "People sometimes still say it. I don't like it. Why not just call me by my name? I don't like being called 'Thorp.' "
He does like being called on to carry the ball and run the defense, and he knows another big season means another chance for schoolmates to play the Thorp card. "There's a little bit of pressure because there are so many great players out there trying to win the Thorp,'' he said. "But I'm psyched for the challenge. I worked hard in the summer. I had to because people know who I am now."
He hopes colleges find out, too. An outstanding lacrosse player, Andrle has options. "I love both sports and I'll definitely miss one of them,'' he said. "But if I had to pick one, it would come down to the money."