AJ Veloz considers himself a classic small-town kid. A young man who everyone knows in his community of Whiting. He loves his role in life.
"I just love football," Veloz said. "I have loved football all of my life."
His coach, Jeff Cain, thinks of the 5-foot-10, 150-pound quarterback in nobler terms. He's not Whiting's Gomer. He's much more like Whiting's Patton, George S. Patton.
"AJ is our quarterback on the field," Cain said. "It's like having another coach on the field. His experience allows him to lead. There've been times he's moved kids who were in the wrong place.
"His knowledge and skill has allowed him to be one of our best."
Like Patton in the Battle of the Bulge, Veloz will lead his Class No. 7 Oilers (9-1) into third-ranked Winamac (10-0) in the Class A Sectional 41 semifinal. The Warriors are the defending sectional champ.
On Friday, Whiting beat LaVille 29-17 in the sectional opener. Winamac beat Lake Station 73-14.
"These four years have gone by just as fast as everyone said it would," Veloz said. "It's going to be a tough game. We need to come out like we did against (LaVille). We ended the year a little shaky. But we're coming together now.
"We have to keep coming together and have a great week of practice."
Veloz's career numbers have been extreme. As a sophomore, he was 119-of-254 for 1,519 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was 122-of-198 for 2,011 yards and 25 TDs as a junior. So far this season, he is 133-of-225 for 1,726 yards and 10 TDs.
That's 5,256 yards, 45 throwing scores and eight more TDs with his feet.
The team's record is 25-6 with Veloz behind center.
"AJ's had a great career," Cain said. "He understands our offense very well."
Veloz had a helmet-to-helmet hit against River Forest and did not return for the second half. Cain said many speculated he suffered a concussion, but Cain said that was not the case.
"That was precautionary," Cain said of removing Veloz in the Oilers' only loss.
Veloz is being recruited by Hope College in Michigan. While also being a good baseball player, he said he wants to pursue a college football career, where he plans on majoring in business or occupational therapy.
"We want to keep this season alive," Veloz said. "We're going to do everything we can to keep it going."