Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of eight feature stories on Mid-Columbia Conference 3A-4A football players that will kick off the 2012 high school season. The Tri-City Herald will present one story a day until its prep football preview Friday.
Luis Murillo is an undersized linebacker.
At 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, the Pasco High School senior isn’t your typical brawny backer.
But don’t let his stature fool you. He can play the position.
“I love to hit,” he said. “I love going one-on-one with running backs. They see me as really small, and it is a surprise when I hit them. They think it is easy to get through me.”
That mentality has helped Murillo play varsity ball for three seasons, starring on offense and defense.
The Bulldogs hope to lean on players like Murillo and returning quarterback Sean McNiel to end three years of struggles that started when Chiawana High School opened across town.
“It was tough because they took a big chunk of our kids,” said Murillo, who is part of the first four-year senior class since the split, “but I think we are recovering. Last year was a recovery year, and I think this year we will be fine.”Murillo leads 18 returners from last year’s team, which struggled to a 1-9 record but showed signs of life at times last season.
“We are learning from all the things that happened last year, and we don’t want to repeat them,” he said. “We have the people and the players. We just need to execute each play how it should be.”
Murillo will be key to executing those plays on both sides of the ball. While at times he wishes he could focus on one position, he has never pressured the coaches to showcase him at running back.
“The most important thing about him is he’s willing to do what the team needs,” said Pasco coach Dustin Lamb. “He does his job. He doesn’t say, ‘Coach, I’m a running back.’ Or, ‘Coach, I’m a wide receiver.’ He’s exactly the kind of kid we’re trying to build this program around.”
Murillo plays all three positions not just out of necessity but because he is talented enough to fill three roles. Lamb acknowledges it is a lot to ask of him, but throughout his high school career, he has shown he can handle it.
“He brings something to the table at all three positions,” said Lamb. “He’s just an athlete. He has good wheels, can catch, and he’s tough enough to play defense.
“If this was college and we were preparing for the NFL draft, he’d be drafted as an athlete.”
Murillo isn’t to that level yet, but he is ready to have a strong senior season and make a run in the playoffs. Pasco is moving back up to Class 4A, a move that generally wouldn’t seem to help a struggling program.
Murillo has other ideas about the move, though.
“I like 4A. We get to play bigger schools, bigger teams,” he said. “I like the challenge. It should be fun.”