Josh Banderas learned some lessons the hard way and some just came naturally.
“My neighbor got a little gas-powered moped for his birthday and I jumped on. I went in the grass and hit a slick spot,” Banderas said. “I went down with my leg under the muffler and got a third-degree burn. I learned you wear jeans with motorcycles.”
Running the football and finding the person with the football seemed to come much more easily to the Lincoln Southwest senior.
It is because of the way he played linebacker and running back that Banderas is one of the honorary captains of the 2012 Lincoln Journal Star Super-State football team.
He shares the honor with Millard North’s Isaac Aakre, who led the Mustangs to the Class A championship and an undefeated season. Aakre rushed for a state-best 2,295 yards and also passed for 506 yards, completing 63 percent of his attempts.
This year, Banderas finished with 119 tackles, including 11 for loss, and a pair of interceptions.
The difference was switching from tight end to running back, and he took to it like a natural. Banderas rushed 189 times for 1,237 yards and 18 touchdowns.
“It wasn’t too hard to get in the running back mind-set,” Banderas said. “And that helped me on the defensive side, because I was able to think like a running back thinks. Where are you going, where’s the next hole, where to cut back.
“I think it did help out on the defensive side of the ball. And I guess I kind of played running back like a linebacker.”
Coach Mark King said Banderas rose to the occasion with the increased workload.
“The most impressive thing is that his numbers defensively were almost the same as last year and we added 190 carries, 1,200 yards and 18 touchdowns to his job description,” King said. “I was worried he might have a drop-off defensively.
“The biggest thing for Josh is his desire. A lot of his yards came after contact. It’s not done until he’s down, and he was as good as we’ve had for getting yards after contact.”
Banderas has committed to play at Nebraska, where his father, Tom, was a tight end.
“If I had always been a tight end, I probably would have wanted as many yards or more than he had,” the younger Banderas said. “And you wonder, would I be able to guard him or get around him? I think he knows I could have stayed with him. But he was a very good drive blocker and I think I would try to avoid that.”
Banderas is the defending 110-meter high hurdles champion and was second in the 300 intermediate hurdles at the state track meet last spring. He plans to add the discus and shot put next spring. Meanwhile, he is out for bowling.
“I got a ball and they’re teaching us how to bowl. My average is about 150 now,” he said. “I’m not on varsity yet. I just decided to learn something new.”
Aakre, who was named the state's Gatorade player of the year, was durable and explosive. He carried the ball 357 times, averaging nearly 30 carries a game. He missed one game after suffering a concussion.
“I think I miss him already. I remember when I was introduced to Isaac when he was in seventh grade,” Millard North coach Fred Petito said. “I said Isaac would be the next good quarterback at Millard North. He’d hang around a bit and toss the ball around. He can throw, because it made sense to him.”
Aakre, who also quarterbacked the Mustangs to a championship when he was a sophomore, said he enjoyed his increased leadership role this year.
“In our system, I think about the middle of your second year is about when you start to mature and develop at a pace that is high-octane,” Aakre said. “I was comfortable my sophomore year, but I was more confident in my leadership the last two years.
“Experience helps you to be a leader. Even in regular life, a lot depends on how we view ourselves.”
Aakre will graduate in two weeks and take an internship with his church in Omaha.
“Perspective is a huge thing in life. I know the next six months, but after that, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said. “God has a plan for my life and his plan is better than anything I can come up with. Football isn’t out of the picture.”