Chicago's 'Refrigerator' Makes the World a Lot Less Frosty for High School Heavyweights
Since lumbering onto the field at 330 pounds for his first pro practice last summer, William “the Refrigerator” Perry has been trampling football tradition as thoroughly as his opponents. Drafted by the Chicago Bears as a defensive lineman, the 22-year-old rookie has scored one TD running, another as a pass receiver and helped engineer other scores as a backfield blocker. With the Bears unbeaten in their first 10 games, the now 307-pound Perry has emerged as Chicago’s newest folk hero and is fast becoming a national figure on talk shows and a much sought-after endorser of products (including refrigerators, of course). Yet few have watched his exploits with more enjoyment than the Fridges of the future, the high school players who, amazingly, already rival the Bears’ star in bulk if not ability. Some of the biggest of these fill (and we do mean fill) the pages that follow.
To the Crenshaw High School Cougars in L.A., Pat “Big Pat” Jackson, Anthony “Big Ush” Usher, Larry “Tank” Netherly and Mike “Big Grim” Grimble are known as the Battering Ram. The defensive four average more than 300 pounds each, though Netherly and Jackson “won’t get on the scales,” according to varsity Coach David Frierson. “So we just estimate. They want to be thought of as slim and trim.” While weight hasn’t translated into wins and the Cougars are 0-4 in league play this season, “these kids are hard, mean, serious football players,” insists Frierson. “If we go up against a team that passes a lot, they won’t be effective. Against a running team, they are.” Perhaps, but not all opposing quarterbacks detect that much difference. Sometimes “you can see the fear in their eyes, they don’t like to get hit,” notes the 360-pound Usher with a hint of glee. “One that I noticed was doing some strange kind of ballet trying to get away.”
When 320-pound Troy Hawkins signed up for J.V. football at Boston’s Dorchester High School, two extra large pants had to be stitched together to fit his 52-inch waist. Hampered by knee problems because of his weight, Hawkins, 15 (with teammate Michael Spooner), now wears a brace in games and is trying to shed 30 pounds. Still, “with his quickness, he can be a force if he sticks to it,” says Coach Joe Mason.
Darrell “Big Boo” Pannell’s mother insists that her son eats normal meals. She admits, however, to finding empty cookie bags in his bedroom—and Big Boo did weigh 345 when the season began. Dubbed “The Walking Encyclopedia” because of his academic prowess, the 16-year-old varsity lineman has led Detroit’s Henry Ford High to three unbeaten seasons and spends off-field hours dating 4’11” cheerleader Tonya Neal (right). Says Coach Joe Hoskins: “He is not all brute.”
The Lualemana brothers of Daly City, Calif. shun smoking, drinking and even dating, and claim they would pass up sports if their parents insisted. The discipline is part of a rigid code passed down to Abraham, 15, Arona Jr., 18 (front), and David, 16, by their Samoan-born father. The Westmoor High defense has been bolstered by the trio’s combined 800 pounds, and while none is considering an NFL career, pro fans can take heart. Brother Leua, 10, is now the team ballboy and already weighs a pro-like 220.
Roosevelt “Sandman” Black, 18, got his nickname when one of his tackles sent an opponent off to dreamland. Now 395 pounds, the nose guard from Detroit’s Servite High School has been big since birth—12 pounds, 8 ounces. Black says he’d like to turn pro but eventually wants to become a cop. Good choice. “When he says something, everybody listens,” reports Coach Mark Poplawski. “Four hundred pounds can be very intimidating.”
“You need big strong boys on a farm,” says Ron Harling, a corn and soybean grower in Belvidere, III. Who best, then, to help with the harvest than Harling’s identical twin sons, Mark “the Kitchen” and Mike “the Freezer” Harling (with mom, Linda). At 6’6″ and 320 pounds, Mark wears a size 18 shoe and outweighs his brother by 80 pounds, partly because his injured ankle couldn’t heal under the weight and kept him off the field much of the season. Each of the lads polishes off more than a gallon of milk daily, two or three bowls of cereal at breakfast, two or three hamburgers (with fries) at lunch and a king-size helping of spaghetti at supper. Whether Perry’s ball-carrying success will change life for the 14-year-old J.V. defensive tackles is doubtful. “I was asking the coach if he’d let me run sometime,” says Mark. “He said he’d think about it.”
After watching “the Refrigerator” run, South Dakota’s Red Cloud High School Coach Rol Bradford moved “Big Dave” Brings-Plenty from defensive end to fullback for the state playoffs. The team lost, but still, “it took quite a few guys to bring him down,” reports Bradford. Small wonder, since the 18-year-old Sioux stands 6’7″ and weighs 300 pounds. Long embarrassed by his size, “it wasn’t until football that he realized what weight can do,” claims his mother. Now Big Dave says he just might drop Perry a fan letter soon. After all, like Dave, “he’s a pretty big dude, no question.”
Reggie “Deep Freezer” Jackson is “not just a big kid filling up space and falling on people,” says Coach Jim Simmons of Florida’s Ocala Forest High School. “He wipes them off the face of the earth.” Freezer, a 365-pound, 17-year-old varsity offensive lineman, admits “there’s something about diets that just don’t stick with me,” but credits karate with giving him self-control. Tell that to those two fellows who were carried from the field during a recent game. “Just accidents,” says Freezer. “I don’t mean to hurt anybody.”
Bryant Rose was advised by a physician not to play for Baltimore’s Patterson High until he shed some of his 370 pounds. “I really was a blob,” Big Rosie concedes. Weekly trips to a weight-loss clinic helped, and the 17-year-old offensive guard is now a somewhat trimmer 350-pounder (he’s been as low as 300 this year) who lifts weights and runs four to five miles each day. Coach Roger Wrenn would like to see a bit more speed on the B-plus student and ace lineman, and Rose himself would like to see a few more pounds come off his 6’5″ frame. That may mean giving up eating entire chickens and whole loaves of bread in a single sitting. But as he says: “Girls like tall guys, just not real big ones.”