CEDAR LAKE — Life is bigger for a boy of 10. All of it.
The fun. Sadness. The laughter. Tears. The fear. Joy.
When Hanover Central senior James De Lange was a decade old, his father, Karl, was laid off from the mill. In an instant life's basics — bread, water and clothing — all but vanished.
The St. John family of five suddenly wrestled with insecurity, but with a great sense of hope.
"My dad was unemployed for a year, and I saw how hard he worked just for the little things," De Lange said. "There was a lot of stress. He worked odd jobs. Did whatever he could to help us. It gave me perspective.
"I guess I work so hard, because I saw what he did for all of us."
Hanover's roster has De Lange listed at 6-foot, 170 pounds. But Wildcats coach Pete Koulianos said his senior quarterback was "5-foot-nothing" as a freshman and "he couldn't throw a ball 15 yards."
But with his father's story in his heart, De Lange has evolved into one of the Region's top signal callers.
Last season, he rushed for 1,064 yards and threw for 570 yards, with 16 touchdowns. The Wildcats went 9-0 in the regular season and won the Greater South Shore Conference championship, their first.
But with eight seniors with significant minutes on the field graduated, a big drop off for the program and De Lange was expected. By many.
But heading into tonight's home game against River Forest, Hanover is 3-0 and De Lange has rushed for 482 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's also 9-of-16 for 151 yards and three more scores.
Hanover is averaging 48.67 points a game, which is 13th in the state.
"Our coaches set a high standard for us here," De Lange said. "Last year let us know what we were capable of and all of us want to keep it going this year."
His oldest brother, Will, played soccer at Hanover, because the school didn't have football when he was there. He had two sisters who played soccer for the Wildcats, too.
It was Will, however, who talked Patty, the family's matriarch, into letting James play football when no one else in the family had before.
"Will encouraged me to play, and I think it was because he didn't have the chance when he was here," De Lange said. "He lives in Michigan and every Friday he drives three hours to watch me play. That's pretty cool."
Koulianos has watched his pint-sized QB every day in practice the last four years. De Lange was home-schooled through the eighth grade, but he did play youth football with the Tri-Town Raiders and Crown Point Jr. Bulldogs.
He became a quarterback almost by accident. He played on a bad team in C.P. and the other kid behind center quit playing the position because he was tired of getting hit.
So De Lange took over and the rest is his story.
"James finished first in the sprints every day," Koulianos said. "Every day. He's worked hard on his arm strength. He's developed into a very good high school football player."
His father and his faith have led No. 18 from there to here. And beyond to a higher place.
"I grew up in the church, it's a big thing in my life," De Lange said. "God is No. 1 in my life. Jesus Christ influences me every day, in everything I do. I play for my family and my team.
"But I play for his glory the most."