Posted on 21 October 2013 by La Habra Journal
Photos by Meagan Garton, La Habra Journal
by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
If one looks up the term ‘versatile’ in the dictionary, he will find it defined as the ability to change or adapt to different functions or activities.
To see an example of versatility in high school sports, one can find it in Whittier Christian’s senior football player Derek Brush.
More known as the Heralds’ starting kicker, Derek has added backup quarterback, middle linebacker, defensive end, slot receiver and tight end to his repertoire of positions as a starter this season.
“It’s not what I expected,” he said. “But it’s what the team needed and I want to help out in any way I can. It’s been fun for me this year.”
In a 41-21 win over Village Christian this past Friday night, Derek converted on four-of-five field goal tries, the second time he’s accomplished those numbers this season.
However, as a starting wing back and tight end for the first time this season, his assistance in the blocking scheme helped the Heralds amass a season-high 394 rushing yards, which was nearly double the number of yards as their second highest total.
“It felt great seeing Nick [Watase] and David [Fischer] move the ball so well last week,” Derek said. “It was great to know that if we get stuck running the ball, we could put this blocking scheme together and be successful. Coming through with the field goals, it feels great to come through for the team. I was surprised to get five tries, that doesn’t happen often.”
In addition, he also caught two crucial first down passes to keep scoring drives alive.
“His size alone is an asset, having him as a blocker was huge,” said Sergio Gradilla, Whittier Christian head coach. “I wish we had used this set against Valley Christian. I knew we could use him as a blocking type, but he’s athletic enough that he can go out and catch the football as well.”
It was just another way for Derek to help out his team in whichever way it needed it most.
For the first three games of the season, Derek started as the team’s middle linebacker.
However, a season-ending injury to safety Dylan Murphy forced the Heralds to adjust defensively, meaning Derek’s contributions would be moved to the defensive line for the next two weeks.
Both coach and player believe a big part of Derek’s ability to contribute from anywhere on the field comes from his work ethic and dedication to improving during the offseason.
“He’s meant a lot to us this year,” Gradilla said. “We use him as an example of what hard work can do. He’s put in tons of work on his kicking and it shows. He would stay late after practices, work on Saturdays and Sundays, he was just non-stop work. It’s a testament to his work ethic and the kind of kid he is.”
After a junior year in which he admits he struggled on extra-point attempts, this season, Derek has nailed 11-of-15 field goals and has also hit 19 extra point attempts. On four occasions, he’s topped 40-yards.
“I just knew that I had to do something for the team because last year I struggled,” he said. “I knew, this being my senior year, that I had to get something done for the team and looking ahead to college. In the offseason, I just knew it had to be done.”
While his versatility is a big boost for Whittier Christian, Derek believes that his kicking offers him the best shot at earning a scholarship.
While he’s talked with two schools to this point, his consistency could hopefully lead to more visits in the near future.
For now though, he’s all about helping the team in any way he can.
In practice, Gradilla says that Derek is one of the hardest-working, but also remains fairly quiet.
“On the field, his teammates know they can count on him,” Gradilla said. “They know he’ll give everything he has. Off the field, he’s pretty quiet, but he likes to have fun and he’s a big part of the group.”
As he is on the field, Derek employs that same versatility in the classroom, as his favorite subjects during senior year include Photography, U.S. Government and Bible classes.
If he has free time, Derek enjoys staying active by riding his bike or playing other sports.
When it comes to role models, Derek looks up to both his quarterbacks coach, Vince Ferragamo and his kicking coach, Mike Lansford. Both are former NFL players, most notably for their time with the Los Angeles Rams.
“They’ve always taught me to pursue,” Derek said. “They’ve instilled a mentality to never give up, never quit.”
Derek’s pursuit of improving himself both on and off the field have led him this far. His continued pursuit and ability to adapt could take him one step further.