By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
MONROVIA — There were no blaring headlines or expectations.
Nick Bueno’s arrival three years ago was subtle, if not silent.
The sophomore-to-be merely was one of a short list of players competing for the starting job at quarterback at Monrovia High School three years ago.
By fall camp, Bueno was one of two finalists for the job, and three paragraphs was all that was needed to describe his role in the 2008 football preview where there was no mention of his vision or speed.
That offseason was highlighted by a visit to the Peyton Manning Camp in New Orleans, where he received one-on-one tutoring from the Super Bowl champ.
Bueno still was a second option at best in the newly installed Wing-T offense. Monrovia coach Ryan Maddox had a talented running back in Marquise Williams to carry the offensive load, and he did.
There were flashes of brilliance to Bueno’s game. He quietly posted career-like numbers early in the season, but it mattered little, if at all, so long as they also were accompanied by an “L” next to them.
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Bueno completed 10 of 13 passes for 170 yards and three touchdowns in his varsity debut, but Monrovia’s 41-27 loss to Arcadia proved to be a bigger headline.
When the Wildcats won their first game of the season in Week 2, a 14-6 win over Duarte, Bueno passed for only 56 yards. He exploded for 197 yards passing and two touchdowns against Rosemead, stellar numbers that again were overshadowed by Monrovia’s 43-21 loss.
By season’s end, Bueno no longer was flying under the radar. He proved to be the pass-friendly quarterback the Wildcats needed, passing for 1,037 yards and 10 touchdowns and helping them to a Rio Hondo League championship and semifinals run in the the CIF-Southern Section Mid Valley Division playoffs.
It was clear Bueno wouldn’t just be an option but a fixture. As it turned out, the rising quarterback’s coming-out party hadn’t even started.
Bueno re-introduced himself in his junior year. He rushed for 230 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns in a 27-13 win over Arcadia in last year’s season opener.
The Nick Bueno show officially had begun.
Fans smiled while defensive coordinators shook their heads, to think that Bueno — generously listed as a 5-foot-9 quarterback — was making headlines early and often with an added dimension to his dynamic style.
Bueno wowed crowds with his moves, speed, athleticism and poise.
Maddox changed the Wing-T formation from two years ago and gave it a more hybrid structure, which allowed the Wildcats offense to obliterate opposing defenses. It was no surprise that the offense centered around Bueno’s talent.
“He has confidence in his abilities and does a lot of things people just can’t,” Maddox said. “He can cut, move, throw and make you look pretty silly. He has that ability to see down field and anticipate.”
The pseudo-running back who played quarterback amassed 100 yards rushing five more times in the season, en route to 1,461 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. Pundits will point to his 978 passing yards and 10 touchdowns, which on the surface appear average at best, but don’t be fooled.
“Honestly he doesn’t get enough credit for his throwing ability,” Maddox said. “I don’t want to say he calls the offense himself, but he puts himself in a position where he can do that. He can get us into or out of bad plays. It’s an incredible weapon to have because you’re not tied down to one play.”
Monrovia for most of last season was the No. 1-seeded team in the Mid-Valley Division and favorite to win the title. It was the Wildcats’ ninth try.
Bueno’s junior season ended with a quiet thud, and again his heroics were overshadowed in Monrovia’s 12-7 loss to San Dimas, a sting that lingers with every passing day.
This offseason, Bueno took the offense for a passing tournament held at UNLV. No coaches knew about it, let alone helped organize it.
“We wanted to go out there to see what it was about and have some fun,” he said. The group advanced to the semifinals, but the underlining message was clear.
“I want to win. That’s it.”
Bueno doesn’t emulate any college or pro player, he said. He wants to be himself, and why not?
His senior season will be filled with high expectations and decisions to make. The star second baseman on the Wildcats’ baseball team has to decide whether he’ll play football or baseball in college.
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo likes him as a slot receiver. Cal State Fullerton likes him on the baseball diamond. Bueno’s love is football, but he can’t help thinking about an opportunity to play at a major college baseball program.
As far as Bueno is concerned, bring it on.
“He’s one of those special athletes that really handles pressure well,” Maddox said. “He has that ‘it’ factor. He’ll be something special this year.”