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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 4, 2002

St. Louis' George has nerves of steel

By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

Before mastering the passing lanes on the football field, St. Louis quarterback Bobby George lived life in the fast lane.

Quarterback Bobby George is cool under pressure.

Advertiser library photo

Even before he learned to throw a football, George knew about the pressure that comes with competition. His father, Bobby George, once raced cars professionally. The younger George followed his father's tracks in go-cart racing when he was 4 years old. He raced until he was 7.

"He handles pressure really well," said his father. "That was instilled in him when he was small when he was racing because racing is really intense. The pressure of being my son because I was a professional race car driver was there."

So when St. Louis tries to reclaim the state title it won in 1999 in Friday's Chevron State Football Championships final against Castle, George will be more than ready for the challenge.

"To be honest, I feel a lot more comfortable this year than the last two years because I feel we're ready as a team and that everybody prepared (for this) all summer long," he said.

Still, there is a weight on his shoulder that comes with being quarterback for St. Louis. When he made the varsity as a sophomore, St. Louis had won 13 O'ahu Prep Bowls and the inaugural state championship in consecutive years.

George followed the drop-back steps of previous all-state quarterbacks John Hao, Joel Lane, Darnell Arceneaux, Jason Gesser and Tim Chang. Four became quarterbacks at Division I programs. Gesser is being touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate at Washington State, while Chang is rewriting the University of Hawai'i record book. Each has defined himself with victories in the highest title game in Hawai'i.

• What: 4th Chevron State Football Championships final

• When: 7:35 p.m. Friday (parking lot opens at 5 p.m., turnstiles at 6)

• Where: Aloha Stadium

• Who: No. 1 St. Louis (10-2) vs. No. 3 Castle (10-4)

• Tickets: $7 adults, $5 students (K-12)

• Parking: $2.

"He's struggled early in his career and had big shoes to fill just like me," first-year St. Louis coach Delbert Tengan said. "There's a lot of pressure here at St. Louis and not winning the last two years has just added pressure on him. But he's improved. Hopefully, he has one more good game in him Friday night."

Despite the setbacks, George has persevered. Since the back-to-back losses to the nation's top team, De La Salle, and Interscholastic League of Honolulu rival Kamehameha, he has guided the Crusaders to eight consecutive victories. The streak included consecutive wins over Kamehameha in the regular-season finale and playoff that gave St. Louis its 17th consecutive ILH title and state berth. And he did it while playing hurt.

"He's gone through a series of injuries that he's played through and can't do some of the things he'd like to do," said offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Vince Passas. "He's done a real good job fighting through all the injuries."

George knew 10 years ago he wanted to be a quarterback for St. Louis. His first experience at a high school game was the 1992 Prep Bowl when St. Louis beat Wai'anae, 35-7, behind Lane. When George went out for the Pearl City Pop Warner team, he was tried at several positions, including receiver, his father said.

George recalled that at one practice, he caught a pass and fired it back to the quarterback.

"The coach said I should try quarterback," he said. "Ever since then I've been playing quarterback."

In subsequent years, he would follow St. Louis football. He remembers watching Arceneaux warm up with 50-yard passes to Passas.

"Back in Pop Warner, I was lucky if I could throw the ball 20 yards," George said with a laugh. "It was always a goal to come to St. Louis."

Before he became a pro race driver, the elder George was an all-star linebacker for Radford. But before he was in high school, he played quarterback, too. So when father and son played toss in the yard, they would pretend they were facing a pressure situation.

"That's one of the things I taught him," the father said. "Whenever we played in the backyard, it would be, 'OK, this is the Prep Bowl, the last play of the game.' The pressure part he handles real well. I know he really wants to win this game."

When George attended St. Louis in sixth grade, he was less than 5 feet tall. His father said George worked out with the intermediate team, even though he could not play because he was still too young. By seventh grade, he could try out.

"They had seven quarterbacks trying out for the team and he was up to their arm pits," the elder George said. "But (St. Louis) gave him the opportunity. I'm thankful they gave him the opportunity because this is what he wanted."

During their school breaks, Gesser and Chang would sometimes visit their alma mater. George said both shared tips with him.

"When I see them, they give me advice about what to do and Tim's really helped me," George said. "He calls me up now and then and tells me what to look for in game situations."

George said winning is bred into St. Louis players from the start.

"Coaches down in intermediate always pushed us just to get better to where when we get to varsity, we're ready to go," George said. "They do a good job with that, so when football season comes around, it's set in everyone's mind that we have to do a good job to get the championship. It's a tradition."