Call it a rare combination of grunt work and homework.
With an imposing upper body, thick arms that manhandle opposing linemen and agile feet that belie his massive frame, perhaps the most impressive thing about Thomas Gallagher is his brain.
The 6-foot 4-inch, 295-
pound Sequim High School junior who was named Associated Press All-State offensive and defensive tackle, is hoping for more than a roster spot on a college football team.
"I believe in life after football," Gallagher says.
With his size, speed and work in the classroom, he may not have to worry about life after football for a while.
Gallagher is drawing interest from a number of schools, in particular from the Princeton Tigers.
Yes, the same Princeton of the Ivy League.
"He has the tangibles," Sequim coach Erik Wiker says. "We call it, 'The Combine Factor.' Size means a lot. He's got size and he's got strength and he's really worked hard on his feet. That's what put him on the top."
But what really makes Gallagher stand out, the coach says, is the combination of hard work on the practice field and in the classrooms. The junior boasts a 3.60 grade-point average.
"The better grades you have, it opens up tons of doors," Wiker says. "He's got good grades, good work ethic. He's one of the hardest workers on the team. I definitely think he's a D-I (Division I) player because he's going to tap all of his potential."
As a sophomore, Gallagher helped Sequim's Wolves rush for more than 2,800 yards and 28 touchdowns. On defense he added 21 tackles (seven solo tackles) and two sacks.
As a junior, the Wolves' line helped Sequim backs total more than 2,500 yards, 33 touchdowns and their second consecutive class 2A state playoff appearance.
The effort earned Gallagher all-state honorable mention on both sides of ball, a rare feat.
"He's got the tools," Wiker says. "We've had (other possible college football athletes) for sure, but their desire wasn't there. His desire is to play there."
Gallagher started playing football in sixth grade.
"I knew after my first few practices," he says, that football was his sport.
And so it makes some sense that his secondary sport, wrestling, is an endeavor combining strength, agility and strategy - and a sport in which he excels. After qualifying for the sub-regional tournament as a freshman and the regional tourney as a sophomore, Gallagher took his wrestling acumen to the next level this winter, placing sixth in the class 2A state championships while fighting off a case of whooping cough.
When it came to spring, it was time for Gallagher to focus on football once again, both as a player and a recruit.
On a sort of campaign trail, Wiker recommended the recruit to several colleges. After school recruiters pore through press and transcripts, they generally send out a "letter of interest." Gallagher said he's received information from a number of schools, including the University of Oregon, Washington State University, University of Idaho, Dartmouth College, Florida State University and Princeton.
But in 2009, report cards and newspaper clippings don't "sell" a college recruit. Schools want to see game film and what the athlete can do in the weight room.
That's why Gallagher worked with Wiker to develop a collection of his top plays from recent games. The junior then sought out a multimedia company to polish his introductory DVD.
The disc, produced by Mooney Multimedia, shows Gallagher crushing opposing linemen under Friday night lights, showing off his footwork in a so-called "ladder drill" in the SHS gymnasium and his weightlifting prowess in (225 pounds in the bench press 20 times, a 405-pound squat five times and more) in the school's weight room.
Next week, a recruiter from Princeton is coming to see him, Gallagher said.
"I'm in wait mode right now," he says.
"I'd like to go to school for free," he admits.
No matter where he goes, Gallagher figures to be seeing some playing time, as far as his high school coach is concerned.
Says Wiker, "As big as he is, as smart as he is, as much as he tries ... they're going to really work hard to keep him off the field."
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.