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Friday, August 28, 2009

Knoch's 6-foot-8 lineman more than a big body

Micah Lio stands in the middle of the back row, towering over the other Knoch football players as they pose for a team photo.

Standing beside Lio, 5-foot-9 Chet Paul gazes skyward at his colossal teammate, dons a smirk and bounces up to his tiptoes -- head now even with Lio's upper arm -- as the cameras snap.

The 6-foot-8 Lio just rolls his eyes and grins.

Tall gags are nothing new for Lio, who surpassed the 6-foot mark before junior high. So how's the weather up there, Micah?

"I get those jokes all the time," Lio said, laughing. "I like standing out in front of everyone and being the center of attention, but then there's times where you feel a little bit different. It goes both ways."

Lio is starting to stand out in college recruiting circles. With his exceptional build, the 265-pound Lio is receiving interest as an offensive lineman from Division I programs such as Pitt, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State and Akron.

His immediate goal is to anchor a Knoch line that must compensate after losing all-time rusher Tim McNerney to graduation. Lio also will play defensive tackle.

"There's a little thing called a big-guy syndrome," veteran Knoch coach Mike King said. "When you're that big in basketball and junior high athletics -- and he has been huge all the way through -- you can easily dominate. He'll be fine with his pass blocking. The trick is to be as big as he is, yet think like he's smaller than other people."

Lio, whose father is Samoan, has exceptional height in his genes. His older brother stands 6-foot-11 but is nowhere near as thick.

"I have about 100 pounds on him," said Lio, whose first name is pronounced MY-kah. "I eat everything that's not bolted down, so it's not hard for me."

Already looking like a man among boys, Lio bears a full black beard and a Mohawk haircut reminiscent of 1980s icon Mr. T. His youth is only apparent when a ready smile reveals metal braces.

But it's not just about Lio's awesome size anymore. It's about polishing his run-blocking and playing with a mean streak that will help him at a high collegiate level, where physical attributes are barely half the battle.

"What you have to understand, and Micah has really made a lot of strides this way, is to finish blocks," King said. "You have to be the aggressor. To almost think that you're the underdog. To feel you've got to prove yourself every play and have that competitive edge."

Following a disappointing 2-7 season, the Knights' offense will put more emphasis on the pass. Lio will serve as the cornerstone of that attack at strong-side tackle.

"He's moved from our quick tackle spot to the tight-end side," King said. "This is actually more of a power blocker. It's that tight side of the line where we put our more experienced players, and we expect leadership and correct decision-making. I think he'll be fine in that regard."

Lio sees an improved attitude in his teammates and better times ahead for a program that missed the Class AAA playoffs in 2008, just one year removed from the Greater Allegheny Conference championship.

"We got new stuff in the weight room, and new guys who came in and committed to the program," Lio said. "I see a bright future for us. My individual goal is to make (first team) all-conference. My team goal for this year is to win section and go down to Heinz Field."

And King is cautiously optimistic that Lio will be a cornerstone -- a colossal one at that -- to making that a reality this fall.

"With all things that may be in front of Micah," King said, "I think he's pretty serious this year in delivering the goods."

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