Apopka High School is expected to be one of the top teams in the Florida's 6A classification in the 2008 season and a big reason is its little linebacker. Larvez Mars is only 5-foot-11 and around 200 pounds but his production on the field has been unmatched and college programs should soon take notice.
The thing that sets Mars apart on the football field is his mobility and quickness from his middle linebacker position. That quickness has been honed through years of competing in more than just football.
"I've just been working out and playing other sports like volleyball," Mars said of his offseason. "I think volleyball really helps my footwork. My quick feet come from just playing all types of sports and putting it all together."
With May 1 rapidly approaching, so is the Apopka Spring Practices and Mars is itching to get the pads back on, particularly after a season in 2007 that fell just short.
"I miss playing since that Boone loss," he said, referring to the 6A semifinal loss to Orlando (Fla.) Boone. "I think it was a great season. It could've been better. I broke a couple of goals I wanted to break which were over 150 tackles and at least one interception because I had never had an interception in my high school career. I got two."
Mars was clocked on Wednesday afternoon at a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash but he still hopes to get even faster. He also has several goals for himself and his team for the upcoming season.
"I'm working on getting faster and form tackling," he said. "As a team, I want to win the state championship. Our goal is to get better as a team and get better with Christ. Personally I want to break the school record in single season and career tackles. I think the record is around 170 in a single season and 380 or 400 in a career."
Though he keeps very busy playing several sports and making every tackle on the football field, the recruiting game has yet to pick up but it likely will. He does however have his first offer in.
"I have a bunch of letters from schools like Kentucky, Iowa, Florida, UCF, South Florida and Louisville. Kentucky has offered me."
Despite a lot of out of state interest, ideally, Mars would like to stay in the state of Florida.
"I want to stay home but if I've gotta go out of state, I'll do it," he said.
However, if Mars had his choice, it would be a fairly easy one as to where he would end up playing.
"The University of Florida, that's my dream school," he said. "I love watching the Gators. I grew up watching the Gators. When I was little that was the team I would watch and some of my family members went there for school. Every time I watch them they just look like they're having fun on the field and that's something that I'm about is having fun out there."
While Mars is having fun on the football field, opposing ball carriers may not share the same sentiments. Mars packs a punch as a striker and a tackler and he does it with a smile on his face. He also has a unique nickname that he commonly goes by: Pooh Bear.
"I go by Pooh Bear and Larvez," he said. "When I was little my shirt used to ride up over my belly so my mom started calling me Winnie the Pooh."
Years later, Pooh Bear is striking fear in the hearts of ball-carriers and hoping that college recruiters will soon take notice of more than just his nickname.