Toughness matters: Palisade’s Salazar, Townsend may be small, but they pack a wallop
Daniel Salazar and J.T. Townsend know opposing football players look at them and smirk.
The Palisade High School juniors realize they are smaller than most linebackers.
Their coach, John Arledge, playfully calls them ‘midgets.’
“They are small, tiny guys,” Arledge said. “They run extremely fast and are extremely physical. They are absolutely unselfish kids and are tough mentally. If Daniel was 6-3, 220, (the University of) Texas would be calling me today. No one works harder than them.”
The teasing and quizzical looks are OK with them. The 5-foot-7, 140-pound Salazar and the 5-8, 150-pound Townsend aren’t afraid. They love the opportunity to prove they can hit.
“You can tell whenever someone looks at you,” Salazar said. “Until you actually hit them, they have a different perspective. It’s kind of fun, too. You get to knock them on their butt and it makes you feel twice as good.”
Salazar, who plays inside linebacker, and Townsend, an outside linebacker, were slated to be defensive backs this season.
A lack of linebackers combined with the duos toughness led the coaching staff to move them to linebacker.
Now, Salazar and Townsend are among the team leaders in tackles.
“We didn’t have very many linebackers,” assistant coach Matt Borgmann said. “We’re trying to find somebody who will do what we ask of them. Those two are tough. They are tougher than snot. Size doesn’t mean anything to them.
“Linebacker is about toughness and technique. Linebacker is not always about size. We are not the biggest team. We have to have kids like that.”
Salazar moved to linebacker this year after playing quarterback and free safety on the junior varsity last season.
“I got put in there a couple plays during camp and have been there ever since,” Salazar said. “I was kind of surprised. I like it. I never thought I’d be a linebacker.
“I don’t like being in open space. I like being in all the commotion. I like being in the middle of everything.”
Townsend played linebacker last year after the coaches tried him out at safety.
“They wanted me to play free safety or corner, but they moved me up because I was always stepping (forward) instead of going backwards,” Townsend said. “I like it. It doesn’t matter my size. I’ve got to make plays.
“It’s better for me. I’m not a very good player in open space.”
To Arledge, playing linebacker is more about character than size.
“It’s all about being tough,” he said. “They get that through their family growing up. If you met their fathers, you’d know they are tough. They’ve worked hard and are absolutely physical. Size means nothing. They’ve earned the right to play.”