May 15, 2008

Armstead's playing with plenty of motivation

His story's got some different twists and turns.

There's the part about being underrated and unknown. There's the part of being discovered. There's some tragedy, and there's some triumph.

And, this isn't a story that's got an ending coming any time soon - at least not if Armond Armstead has his say.

The enormous four-star defensive tackle from Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove's been spending lots of time in the weight room, hoping to get everything in line for an early impact.

"The coaches have told me that I have a good chance to come in and play," Armstead said. "I just want to compete. I know I'll doing everything I can to be ready to play."

Armstead burst onto the scene last summer, dominating at camps and combines because of his unique blend of size, speed, agility and power before committing to and eventually signing with the Trojans.

Armstead, an all-league player as a junior, said he didn't get too much attention, and he used that as fuel for his fire.

"I use that as motivation, coming from a new school and not getting recognized. I used it to push me at camps and combines and everything. When I line up against the high-ranked guys, I'm confident in my abilities, and I know what I can do.

"Then, I just love going and proving that I can play with the best."

At 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, Armstead certainly passes the look test. But, it's more than that.

A skilled, athletic basketball player, Armstead used his experience on the court to help on the football field.

"It's helped me with getting around people and with quickness and explosiveness," he said.

Basketball may have helped Armstead as a player, but football's already helped him as a person.

During his senior season, tragedy struck the Armstead family when Armond's uncle, Willie Armstead Jr. passed away suddenly.

At just 43, "Buggy," a former cornerback at Chico St., wouldn't be able to see his nephew continue to blossom on the football field.

"It was really rough. I was so used to having him there, looking up and seeing him," Armstead said. "He used to come to all my games. He taught me a lot about working hard and about always playing hard."

Armstead's father, Gus, said uncle and nephew were kindred spirits.

"I see a lot of Buggy in Armond," Gus Armstead said.

But Armstead fought threw the pain, using his uncle's passing as even more motivation.

Spending lots of time with a trainer, Armstead's gotten even stronger and quicker this offseason.

"I feel a lot faster than I was during the season," Armstead said. "I just can't wait to get into a football game. It feels like I haven't played in awhile."

With prom a week ago, graduation coming up and move-in on the horizon, Armstead might get his wish sooner than later.

"Everything's moving fast," he said.

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