CONCORD -- A polite Eagle Scout off the field, Sumner Houston transforms when he puts on football pads.
The three-year starter brought energy, physicality and toughness while anchoring De La Salle's dominant defensive line. The senior, headed for Oregon State, also played left tackle on offense but made his biggest impact on defense.
At least that is what De La Salle's opponents probably would tell you after being flattened by the 6-foot-3, 260-pound defensive tackle all season.
The leader of the best defensive unit in the area, Houston is the East Bay Defensive Player of the Year.
"He does everything the right way, but he will hit you," De La Salle defensive coordinator Terry Eidson said.
The Spartans had a loaded defense that helped them reach their fifth consecutive CIF Open Division state title game.
"But Sumner was the linchpin," De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh said.
Houston finished with eight sacks, 59 tackles and 14 tackles for a loss in a 14-1 season for the Spartans and also earned East Bay Athletic League MVP honors, a rarity for a lineman. He made an impact as co-captain, rallying his teammates with his intensity and his work ethic.
"He's always bringing a lot of passion to the game," De La Salle quarterback Chris Williams said. "He's always ready to again and again and again. Then when everyone is done he wants to do more, more, more. Lift more, more, more. He works hard."
"He's a grinder," Eidson said. "He's at it every day working, whether it's on the field, in our conditioning, in the weight room. He's a kid that's going to give maximum effort at all times."
With his nonstop motor, Houston has been compared to former De La Salle star Dylan Wynn, who is now an impact defensive end at Oregon State. Houston said he models his on-the-field attitude after his future teammate.
"I had to carry on the craziness, the intensity, the physicality," Houston said. "Everything that Dylan started, I have to bring that to the table every game."
Houston, the younger brother of former DLS quarterback Bart Houston, rarely got a break during the playoffs as a two-way starter.
"He's tough as nails, what I like to call 'old school tough,' " Eidson said. "There are not a lot of kids around anymore that have that kind of toughness and determination."