Jack Sula wasn't feeling so well last week, forced to fight through the common cold like so many people this time of year.
Sula wasn't about to let a little bug affect his work as the starting running back for Carson High.
"I'll take him sick again for 220 more yards," Carson coach Mike Christensen said with a quick laugh.
Of course, when it comes to Sula, Christensen could mimic Dr. Seuss because he likes Sula here or there. He likes Sula anywhere.
"It wasn't very long after I got to Carson that I knew about Jack," Christensen said. "I just love that kid. He's got the right attitude and the way he approaches practice. He understands how to prepare for an opponent. When you talk about guys who have that 'It' factor, he has that."
It's not just Christensen who's on the Sula bandwagon. Quarterback Dominique Blackman was raving in practice this week about Sula to his coaches and teammates after he watched Sula made an adjustment to his footwork to make a play run smoother. Linebacker Joel Deayon said Sula is doing little things like that all the time to improve the team.
Carson's offensive linemen love blocking for him and the 6-foot, 183-pound junior makes sure to always recognize the work they've done to help him accumulate 1,764 yards and 19 touchdowns on 218 carries this season.
"He's the driver and we're the engine," right guard Sala Tela said. "He always plays like that for us, he's just so explosive."
Sula said he hopes to erupt when Carson (9-3) plays at San Pedro (11-1) in an L.A. City Section championship semifinal Friday at 7 p.m.
"We want payback from when we lost to them and gave up a 14-0 lead," Sula said. "We feel like we should have won that game."
If Carson wins the rematch, expect Sula to have a lot to do with it. The Colts are undefeated when he's rushed for more than 100 yards and are 0-3 when he's been held under the century mark. His physical running style and excellent vision of the holes makes up for a lack of a true breakaway speed burst.
His running style keeps his fan club busy cheering every game. The bandwagon might start on his team but it extends to his family with his mother, Jessica, step dad Jerry Misaalefua, as well as six younger siblings.
Sula said he usually has about 20 family members at his games every week.
"My step dad took me to see my older cousins playing and I told him I want to do that," said Sula, who was playing flag football by age 6 and tackle by 8. "I started out as a wide receiver and linebacker in flag but when I moved into tackle, I liked contact. They moved me to running back and linebacker because of that and I've been there ever since."
He's received attention for his work at running back but has played well at linebacker with 27 tackles, 4½ for loss, one sack and two interceptions.
Deayon leads the defense and said he is impressed with how well Sula has done playing both ways.
"His stamina really stands out," Deayon said. "You can tell when he's tired sometimes but he plays well the whole game."
Sula's durability has even surprised himself. He said he thought 1,000 yards this season would be an incredible output but is in position to double that.
"Ever since I was a kid, I was dreaming about this," Sula said. "Waking up and seeing myself in the newspaper, and playing under the lights."
His breakthrough season isn't a last hurrah either. As a junior, he'll be back to try and duplicate his success with Carson. Christensen said he expects Sula's focus to carry over to the offseason, when Sula will focus on making himself a better football player. Christensen said he's already talking to college coaches about his younger players, and Sula is one of them.
"They won't find a kid who plays any harder than he does," Christensen said. "He will only get bigger, faster and stronger."
Which means he might play even better the next time he has a cold.