casts a shadow, to be sure.
Stands there at 6-feet-8, 285 pounds. Fills an elevator entrance. Arms long enough to reach up and do chin-ups on the nearest set of goal posts.
Armstead is an offensive tackle/defensive end for
Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove, Calif.)
, located in a suburb of Sacramento, a rising football region. The senior who goes by "Puff" by friends is a high selection on the priority list of "must-have talent" for a number of college programs. Programs within the Pacific-12 Conference and as far away as Notre Dame, Auburn, Florida and Alabama, to name but a few, would like his main frame on campus.
Tackles of this size with this sort of mobility, skill set and drive are a valued commodity. Armstead explodes off the ball, buckles foes and seals alleys for runners.
But Armstead has a couple of surprises for you. He admits to being rather good at what he does – some say great – but he really relishes the role of being a stopper, a defensive end. He likes to pursue a play, to be the aggressor, to apply the hurt.
And one more bonus surprise: Armstead wants to continue to be a two-sport athlete. Football and basketball in college ... and beyond. And he's not smirking. Dead serious here.
"I want to be the first to play in the NFL and the NBA," said Armstead, as friendly and warm as he can be athletically dominant and unrelenting. "I really want to try. I think the only thing that would hold me back would be injuries, but if I'm healthy, and I really put my mind to it, why not?"
Why not, indeed?
It hasn't been done before, largely because in college alone, football or basketball is such a time-consuming task, not to mention one that takes a physical and emotional toll. Ligaments and bones and tissue just aren't meant to take such a savage beating in football – and then to think of the wear and tear in basketball.
But here's Armstead willing to try, a young man who is all grins and giddy at the prospects.
Because he is so talented in cleats, it's easy to forget how gifted Armstead is in high tops. Armstead isn't just a banger in the low post with his thick body. He is nimble, has soft hands, good feet, good shooting touch. He can shoot, dribble and drive — don't take a charge from this man, folks.
No wonder he isn't ready to give up that sport. Armstead's first college recruiting mail came from Cal – for basketball – when he was in the ninth grade. He fields boxloads weekly for both sports, more for football.
Armstead gave a verbal commitment to play football at USC his sophomore season. He remains firm on that, though he will look into recruiting trips to other places.
USC is where brother and idol Armond is a defensive linemen, so imagine the in-family recruiting pitch, "Brother, be a Trojan or I'll rip your head off and place it on the mantle." To which kid brother, and no one's whuppin' boy, might reply with, "You know, UCLA powder blue brings out my best features."
The brothers actually did engage in such banter over one summer, with Arik promising to reach for UCLA garb if older brother didn't pipe down.
Armstead said he has also spoken to the USC basketball coaches about competing for that team. Will it happen? Will his body allow it?
"The main thing is balancing sports," Armstead said. "I hope to play football and hop into basketball. I know it'll be hard, but I want to try."
For now, he wants to get Pleasant Grove back on track in football. Ranked No. 1 by The Sacramento Bee entering the season and a preseason No. 8 team nationally by MaxPreps, the Eagles were tripped up 50-49 in double overtime against Lincoln of Stockton on Saturday, a formidable team that soon plays Grant High of Sacramento. Armstead didn't start due to a tender shoulder but did get plenty of work in. He vows his team will recover and respond.
One thing to expect is continued leadership from Armstead. Pleasant Grove coach Joe Cattolico said Armstead is the best lineman he's worked with, the real deal as a student, a young man and a player.
"He's a package you don't see," the coach said. "You don't see kids that size who can move the way he does, the first step, the obvious size and strength. He's got an NFL package if things work out.
"We're fortunate. You don't get kids like this."
Armstead said he is a product of his family. Loyalty, unity and work ethic are the common threads that bind. Armstead is the kid brother to Armond, Alexis and Aaron and the clear-out-the-fridge pup to father Guss and mother Christa.
Armstead said he wasn't overwhelmed by the recruiting process because his brother went through it. And he's not afraid to improve because his father insists on it, having made a name for himself as a noted trainer for athletes of all ages and sports.
Armstead grew up in training facilities. It's second nature.
"I'm so used to it, and from our dad, we learned how important it is to work hard," Armstead said. "I'm always looking to get better every day. That's how you get good or great. There's always room for improvement. Being good in high school isn't all I want. I want more."Joe Davidson has covered prep sports at The Sacramento Bee since 1988. Follow his work at sacbee.com and on Twitter: email@example.com.Watch more videos of Pleasant Grove football