By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
PASADENA – Israel Lacy cannot get enough of the spotlights.
It might be on the dance floor, behind the piano or drums, in front of the cameras, the basketball court or the football field. The La Salle High School junior running back is a teenager with many talents.
“He’s blessed,” La Salle football coach Antoine Peterson said. “There is nothing he can’t do if he keeps his mind on it. He’s just blessed.”
Lacy comes from a performing family. His mother, Candace, is a piano teacher. Lacy began playing the drums when he was 1. He can play six instruments, sing, dance and act.
But right now, he has put all that theatrical showmanship on the sidelines to concentrate on his athletic showmanship.
“I missed the adrenaline; the rush you get when you’re under the lights or when you see that big crowd and everyone is here watching it,” Lacy said. “I missed the whole environment of it. I missed not playing sports at all.”
Lacy first enrolled at Los Angeles High School of the Arts to hone his musical and theatrical talents.
But after one year, he transferred to La Salle. He has always played basketball, but the 5-foot-7, 170-pound Pasadena resident wanted to play football, too.
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“I wanted to play (football) ever since my seventh-grade year,” he said. “(My mother) said I couldn’t play until I got to high school. When I got to LAHSA, she was kind of happy because it was another year I couldn’t play.”
It was the academics, and sports, that led to the transfer, he said.
“It was more of I missed not playing sports at all,” he said. “My friend’s dad was always talking to my mom about football. I think he somewhat opened the door. The convincing factor was when I transferred to another school and they have football. She said, `I kept my word and I’ll let you play.”‘
He did not miss a beat on the basketball court. The point guard helped the Lancers to a 17-12 record and the second round of the CIF-Southern Section playoffs. He averaged 7.3 points, 3.2 assists and 3.6 steals a game. He was named to the All-CIF-SS Division 4A team.
In his first year of football, Lacy rushed for a team-high 313 yards and seven touchdowns. He accounted for 52.4 percent of the Lancers’ ground game and scored more than half of their touchdowns.
Unfortunately for Lacy and the Lancers, they did not win a game.
“I’ve always played running back, even in flag football,” he said. “I like the position. … The coaches saw me as a running back and it worked.
“Last year it was hard. I have been learning how to read holes and what holes to run through.”
This season’s numbers have not been mind-blowing, but then the Lancers have struggled to run the ball and have lost 14 consecutive games dating back to 2009.
Lacy has rushed for 100 yards in three games. He was injured on his first rushing attempt against Maranatha, a 7-yard loss, and did not return to the game. He had 23 yards in Friday night’s 24-0 loss to San Marino. He led the Lancers in rushing in the game.
“I still have to push myself,” he said. “No matter how many times you hit the hole, it’s always a certain way you have to do it. The next step is what you have to do after you hit the hole. I feel like there is no reason I can’t get it.”
It may not have shown on the field, but Lacy has improved under the tutelage of coach Shawn Walters.
“Shawn has not only been a coach, but he’s been a mentor,” Lacy said.
Walters played the position at USC in the mid-1990s.
Peterson said working with Walters, who started at USC, has helped Lacy.
“He understands more about the defenses this year as far as the creases in the defense,” Peterson said. “The big difference is that coach Walters has done a great job for him. He has spent a lot of off-the-field time with him and preparing him mentally.”
But never far from Lacy’s thoughts is his music and dancing. He spent three years working with acclaimed dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen in a touring show. He has sung at weddings and engagement parties and has recovered underground videos.
“Music, I will always be playing music,” he said.
Lacy can also play the saxophone, trombone and clarinet. His favorite instruments are the drums and piano, which he said he just began playing seriously three years ago. One of his favorite performance styles is freestyle jazz.
Surprisingly, Lacy said he can read a basic music sheet, but not the chords.
“My mom taught me the basic (harmonic) keys,” he said. “Everything else I just picked up by ear. I can read the basic notes. The chords and things, I can’t read. Most people think I can. It’s a little harder because you don’t know all the chords. If I can hear it, I can play it.”
On the field, the slow start against tough competition does not have the Lancers down, Lacy said.
“Obviously we have gotten off to a shaky start, but we just need to focus and to keep pushing,” he said. “We have the mentality to win. We just have to go out and take it.”