ANAHEIM, Calif. – People have used a lot of different words to describe Anaheim Servite junior linebacker Chris Galippo.
Top underclass linebacker in California.
Top 100 junior prospect.
Future All-America candidate.
All those are fitting descriptions indeed, but if Galippo had his way, people would use two different words to portray himself.
"Without a doubt discipline and character would be the words I use to best describe myself," Galippo, a head-hunter linebacker that is 6-foot-2 ½ and 232 pounds.
"I say discipline when talking about doing the right thing on and off the field. And playing with character also fits. You know when a guy cheap shots you? You have to let it go. Walk away and go back to the huddle. Be the nail that holds things together, instead of something that splits the team apart."
First-year Servite coach Troy Thomas said discipline and character are perfect words to describe his star linebacker that is already ranked by Rivals.com as one of the top 100 juniors to watch.
"I think the first thing that stands out to me is character," Thomas said. "When you talk about special athletes, they all can run and are strong and that's why people notice them on the field. But Chris has very strong character. He is a leader in every aspect in this school.
"He's a great student academically. Spiritually he's very involved. He's a leader in the weight room. All the intangibles that everybody doesn't see on the field that's where he really excels."
Don't get Thomas wrong, though. Galippo is a stud linebacker without a doubt.
He should be one of the hottest prospects in California next season and he's likely going to be one of the nation's most heavily recruited linebackers. Through nine games he's racked up 100 tackles, one sack, one fumble recover, two blocked punts and a blocked kick.
"He's a guy that could fit in so many different places because he's big, fast and athletic," Thomas said. "He plays in slot in our offense. He could be a tight end. He could be a rush end, because we blitz him a lot of the edge. He's going to be a big guy, and his dad is like 6-foot-5, so Chris is not even done growing.
"Some of these guys you look at and can just tell they're maxed out. He's 230 pounds, but he's not so yoked up that he's done. You can tell he's athletic and muscular, but he's going to get a lot of bigger."
What's even scarier is that he's getting better. In his sophomore season, Galippo was an amazing athlete that ran around and made play after play. But for every play he made, he missed a tackle because he was being too aggressive and was often out of position.
"When I was younger, I was talked about as being one of the best in there, so that meant I had to make every play," Galippo said. "That mentality carried with me my freshman year, and then all of a sudden on varsity as a sophomore I'm trying to make every play. I was taking myself out of position. Coach sat me down and talked to me about having to do my job.
"If all 11 guys do their job, then the plays and the tackles are going to come. I think that's one of the biggest things that I've gotten better at. I'm not trying to fly around and make every play. I read my guard, do my job, take on the block and if you do things right the tackles will still be there. It's worked well so far this year."
Thomas has definitely noticed a difference in the short amount of time that he's been there.
"I think the thing he's improved the most is being physical with guys coming right at him," Thomas said. "He's a really fast guy and a good open-field tackler. He's been able to run around his whole life and make plays. I think one of the things we now feel good about is when people are running right at him. He's now able to be physical.
"Some of these linemen in this league are big guys, and that's what he's going to see in the future, and all the guys are going to be fast. I keep telling him, 'look you need to learn this skill for your future.' He's learned from that.
"He took on an isolation block a couple of weeks ago, and crushed the fullback and made the tackle. To me, that was a huge improvement over what I saw last year on film. It's been a process for him. He's been playing better within the system, and he's still making a ton of plays. He's doing his job first and then getting to where he needs to be to make the tackle."
While Galippo has become more of a student of the game, there has never been questioning his effort and desire. This is something Thomas discovered immediately after he was hired as the head coach.
"The very first day when I got announced, I was walking around and the guys were in the weight room, so I went out there to see them," Thomas said. "Chris said 'hey coach you going to be here tomorrow morning, because we're going to be up lifting.' From that day forward, I knew he was all business. He was the one that said it to me, and he was just a sophomore.
"From that day forward, I've never missed a lift. I've been told he's never missed a lift since he's been here."
Galippo also remembers the first meeting with his coach.
"Actually I saw him at a big varsity baseball game," Galippo said. "We thought he had taken off and was out and about. I wanted to go talk to him and introduce myself a little more than I had already.
"I asked him 'when we going to start lifting.' He said 'tomorrow morning at 6 o'clock.' I asked him if he was going to be there, and he said 'I don't know.' Sure enough, I showed up and the team showed up and he was there ready to lift."
In the weight room, Galippo is a workout warrior. He might not be able to bench press a house, but he's extremely strong when it comes to the power clean, a lift trainers consider more of accurate measurement of a football player's explosion.
"I think the sky's the limit for this kid," Thomas said. "He's just starting to develop physically. He has a lot of growth potential as far as strength. He's a very explosive guy naturally in the weight room. He does great in lifts like the power clean, but he's going to be a very strong muscular guy down the road."
Speaking of down the road, Galippo said he's excited about his future. He has personal goals of being a five-star prospect and earning Gatorade player of the year honors for California. But he said he's not going to let those aspirations take him away from what's most important – staying focused on his team.
"I'm very excited about my future and it definitely motivates me," he said. "When were talking about my personal goals as a sophomore, being an All-American and Gatorade player of the year were some of the things I thought about. I want to shoot for those goals and be a five-star type of recruit.
"Those are really big goals for me, but they definitely don't take my focus off the game. It's always about team first. I can save all that stuff for the off-season. But I'm still definitely excited about the future. I still get laughed at for saying I want to be an NFL player and stuff like that. Those are definitely dreams that I have. Playing college football is something I've thought about my whole life."
When it comes to the recruiting process, he's taken several unofficial visits to UCLA, has already been told by Boston College than an offer is on the table and he's intrigued by Notre Dame and coach Charlie Weis.
"Every program that I've been around, and I've been around a lot at UCLA, has been amazing," Galippo said. "I really like Thurmond Moore at UCLA. I love the family oriented stuff and how they've accepted me already.
"There are so many beautiful campuses out there. I've heard so much about Notre Dame, and I think I want to take a trip to Notre Dame to see it. I hear it's amazing. I think a place like that would be great, especially now that coach Charlie Weis has turned that around. There are so many great places to play. I've not even sat down to think about it yet."
When he does think about it, playing close to home is something that is very appealing.
"Staying local is something that's going to be important to me," he said. "I would be the first generation in my family to go to college, and a big thing for me would be for them to share that experience with me. My parents should be at every game, and that's one of my biggest dreams for me. I want my mom and my dad up in the stands at the games cheering for me."
In college, Galippo plans on majoring in business and he cherishes the opportunity to get a great college education.
"I would really like to get my business degree, and maybe if I were to redshirt get my MBA in five years," he said. "Even though I have these great dreams to go to the NFL, I've heard so many people talk about it being the no fun league. That stuff just helps me think better about making sure to get the degree and earning something for all those aces and pains you get for playing college football.
"Besides you have to be a well-rounded person in life. You can't just be great on the football field. You have to have discipline and character in everything you do in your life. You're not going to get far without them."
But with those two principles guiding Galippo, even if he doesn't become an All-American or an NFL star, he's definitely going to be a winner in the game of life.