Southridge running back Kadin Diaz is well-known for his ability to break tackles.
The 5-foot-9, 195-pound senior is not the biggest back in the Mid-Columbia Conference, but he is definitely the toughest.
And his reason for being so successful at not going down on first contact might surprise you.
“I don’t like being in tight spots,” he said. “I get kind of claustrophobic and kind of freak out, so I use that to my advantage.”
Diaz has had a fear of enclosed spaces since he was a youngster stuck in an elevator with his friends — as a 6-year-old he cried, now he just runs over defenders and tries to avoid the piles.
He has rushed for 702 yards on 124 carries with 10 touchdowns this season and leads the Suns into a pivotal league matchup against Walla Walla at 7 p.m. Friday at Lampson Stadium.
“I have a lot of power with my legs, so that is what I try to utilize,” he said. “I don’t like to go to the ground — I like to get into the end zone and cheer with my friends.”
He has done a lot of that the last two seasons as the starting running back for Southridge. He was third in the league in rushing as a junior, racking up 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“I think it is his trademark,” Southridge offensive coordinator Jason DeVere said. “He is probably one of the hardest runners we’ve had at Southridge in a long time. He doesn’t go down on first contact. He is a real short, squatty guy. He fights for extra yards on a constant basis. He is an exciting back to watch because he won’t go down.”
Diaz began playing football like so many others in Grid Kids when he was 7 or 8.
He started as a center, which suited him just fine because he got to touch the ball every down.
They eventually moved him to running back and his first game there he scored on a 60-yard run.
Diaz has always had success in athletics, something his dad saw from a young age.
“When he was not even 3 years old, I bought him a bike,” Erwin Diaz said. “I went to the garage to get the training wheels to put them on and when I came back, he was already riding the bike. He was into a lot of activities, roller blading, snowboarding, he just picked it up really fast.”
His great-grandfather Melvin Walker, of Prosser fame, taught him how to play the game, and his parents encouraged him through the years.
Both of his parents were bodybuilders in their younger years and helped give Kadin the love for weightlifting which has helped give him the strength needed to be a strong running back.
“ I think with his stature and the way he has always played, he prides himself on that,” Southridge head coach Tony Reiboldt said. “It is one of his physical gifts (breaking tackles). Some backs will be slashers, some long striders, he is low to the ground and wants to keep fighting.”
Diaz was mainly a kick returner as a sophomore before getting his chance last season and he quickly made the most of it.
He is hoping to play at the next level and has been in contact with many colleges in the Northwest.
Before then, though, he and his teammates plan to close the season strong and get into the playoffs.
“We’ve definitely had our ups and we’ve definitely had our downs,” he said. “I think now our team is realizing that we need to step up and prove a point. I feel like that is where we are getting to. We are almost playing our best ball and we will keep getting better as the weeks go on.”