From a young age, Stephen Aldrich stood a head above and a shoulder wide of most students in his grade.
"People would always think I was in a higher grade," Aldrich said. "I was always one of the biggest kids."
From the day he began playing football at South Central in sixth grade, he was seemingly destined to toil in the trenches, and six years later, the Satellites senior has no regrets.
"I've always liked being a lineman," said the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Aldrich. "I'm thinking it's like line-man. You're a man. It all starts there. You're giving the push to get the running backs the so-called glory they get. I like it because you start out being able to hit someone from the beginning, being able to control them. The small things make the differences."
Blocking is in Aldrich's blood. His dad Todd was a center in high school, and he is similar in stature.
"We talk about football a lot," the senior said. "He'll try to give me tips and stuff. He was a pretty good center himself. The rules are definitely different, but he knows what to say to me. It's all on the first hit. That sets the tone for the rest of the game."
When coach Dan Klimczak arrived at South Central two summers ago, he couldn't help but notice Aldrich.
"He's our biggest player," Klimczak said.
Aldrich started on offense as a sophomore. After Klimczak took over, he made sure Aldrich was playing on both sides of the ball.
"I quickly realized he was somebody who had the chance to be a special player," Klimczak said. "He's got all the physical tools. He's very athletic. He moves very well. He's got great feet, a great build. He's country strong. When we need to get yards, we run behind Stephen. He's a great run plugger (on defense). He's double-teamed every play, but he still gets off the ball, occupying blocks to let our linebackers run free. He hasn't reached the limits of his potential."
Given his preference, Aldrich leans toward defense, enjoying the aggression and physicality, but admits he's probably better at offense. Playing both ways provides him insight into beating his opponent to compliment his physical attributes.
"When I'm on defense, I know what I have to do to beat people on offense," he said. "On offense, it's the other way around. Probably my biggest weapon is my long arms. You could have the strongest person in the world up against you, but with my arms, they can't even get a hand on me. It's a huge advantage."
With size 15 feet, Aldrich may not be done growing, making him an intriguing prospect for college should he reach 6-5, 6-6. Aldrich is taking a wait-and-see approach on college, while trying to help the Satellites continue moving in the right direction. They defeated Wheeler for their first win last week after an 0-4 start.
"It took us four games to get it together," he said. "We felt the way we played Whiting, we definitely showed we were a lot better than when we played Culver. Some people might underestimate us, but as long as we keep working hard in practice and showing up in games, we can be a force coming through. The players, the seniors on the field, we have the want, the strength to do it."
Aldrich is part of a tight senior group with several two-way starters.
"Stephen's a great character kid," Klimczak said. "He's a real leader, but we don't have to get him to lead. He's one the other kids follow. This group of seniors is unbelievably close. They're like brothers. That's the part that holds them together."