DOWNEY – Picture this: All eyes are on you, the pressure is on, it’s the CIF championship game, you are one of the best running backs in the state, and you are only a sophomore on your high school’s varsity football team. At the end of the CIF championship game, you end your sophomore year playing 13 out of 14 games, having 2,364 rushing yards, 24 touchdowns, and 240 carries. You are named CIF offensive player of the year in your division and are now one of the most sought out players by division one schools.
It’s rare to meet a player of pure natural ability. During our interview, I could feel the passion, excitement, and love he has for the game and his teammates. Before, I’ve only read about it through other articles and interviews, but to finally meet the individual behind the impressive numbers was such a humbling experience.
Justin Huff (#5) for the Downey Vikings exemplifies such a rare raw athletic ability. It is really quite captivating and magical to see him play the game. To see him commit to each play and do what is necessary for his team. Not for the win, but for the team.
What makes Justin Huff valuable is his ability to be both aggressive and fast. He can block just as easily as he can run the ball. It’s interesting to see the other teams get unwound as soon as they see No. 5 hit the field because they are know they have to work twice as hard if they want to catch him.
“My junior year was a rough time. I got injured and was anxious to get back,” Huff says. “Standing on the sideline you get a better perspective of what you don’t see when you are on the field. All the things you can improve on or do better. The injury humbled me and reminded me we take things for granted. One moment you’re unstoppable, the next you’re injured. You think you know it all, and just like that it can all fall apart.”
Through this experience, Huff has found a better appreciation for his coaches and has learned to trust his coaches’ direction.
“With their leadership, I’m coming back stronger than ever before. I’m out to prove everyone wrong going into my senior year and show them the new and improved,” he said.
Indeed that was something you could not miss during last week’s Vista Murrieta game, proving that natural talent is still embodied within him. There was this beautiful play where Huff maneuvered and carried the ball through the offensive line. It was an instinctive and bold play that resulted in him jumping over a player and earned Downey a first and ten.
That moment instantly reminded me of that movie “The Longest Yard,” where the football team is playing in the mud, jumping over each other and just having fun.
Although Huff was mostly used for blocking during the Vista Murrieta game, his versatility still came across throughout the game. You could see him motivating and encouraging his teammates to stay focused.
“Playing the CIF game was the best feeling ever. I would give anything to have that moment again,” Huff recalls. “Our goal this year is to get there again. Our pact as a team is to leave no man behind.”
Huff has chosen to dedicate his senior year to his mom.
“My mom is such a strong and selfless woman who sacrifices everything for her kids,” he said. “I never see her go out; she’s always working hard to provide for us. Her kids come first always. I owe her so much and the only way I can repay her for everything is by playing and making her proud.
“Every game, I look for her in the stands [and] the moment I see her face smiling when I hit the field, I tell myself this is all for her. I’ll do what it takes just to see that smile on her face. That’s all the motivation I’ll ever need in life. I’ve made mistakes as a kid, but this year I’ve realized I need to do better. It’s now or never.”
Huff, who plans to earn a degree in business, is currently teaming up with his coaches and teammates Christopher Blanton (42) and Jason Thomas (2) to raise money for the Run for Her charity.
“I’m more structured and disciplined my senior year. I’m anxious to do this. All my experiences have built me into who I am today,” Huff said. “I hope to see everyone out there.”
Published: Sept. 11, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 22