He was overweight, suffered from asthma and rarely participated in an organized sport. In a way, he was the non-muscular kid on the beach getting sand kicked in his face.
So Julien DeMaria did something about it.
Thanks to encouraging parents, Julien began a running program and improved a diet that contained too much junk food.
Then, after enrolling at Chandler High, DeMaria tried out for the freshman football team and earned a starting position at defensive tackle. A year later, he started for the junior varsity.
Two months ago, he set four records and won the 275-pound weight class in the Arizona State Powerlifting Championships at Westwood High.
Guess what? No more taunting.
"In grade school, I was really heavy, maybe 285 or 290 pounds," said DeMaria, who is about 5 feet 11 and 250 pounds. "Kids were always telling me to my face that I was never going to make anything of myself in life. They said I was a couch potato and a nerd.
"So one day I said to myself, 'You know what? I'm going to prove these people wrong.' "
DeMaria probably could bench press some of those bullies now, but he is enjoying life too much to worry about the past.
Although he was a reserve offensive and defensive lineman on the varsity last season and there are no guarantees he will earn a starting position as a senior this fall, DeMaria is excelling in the weight room.
At the March state powerlifting meet, DeMaria set records for bench press (270 pounds), squat (512), dead lift (523) and total weight (1,305), which was more than 240 total pounds over the previous record. He helped Thorbecke's Gym in Tempe capture the team title.
"I was shocked," DeMaria said. "I wasn't thinking that if I push myself hard enough I'd get this far. It was more about hard work really does pay off."
At the urging of former Chandler strength coach Marty Vogt about a year ago, DeMaria began going to Thorbecke's to work with trainers Marty Einstein and Fred Millan. Not only did DeMaria greatly increase his strength, he also has become quicker and improved his stamina. He reduced his waist size from about 42 inches to 38.
"Julien always has been one of our strongest players," Chandler football coach Jim Ewan said. "He really works hard and loves the weight room. But he's become significantly stronger and quicker. We haven't set our starting lineups yet for next season, but he's definitely got a chance. He's also one of our long snappers."
DeMaria plans to make it difficult for Ewan to keep him off the field.
"I think last year's experience taught me what I need to do to be on the first team," DeMaria said. "I know what my intensity needs to be and how to carry myself."
In the weight room, DeMaria appears to be doing just fine.
"He was kind of pudgy and pretty raw when he first started coming to Thorbecke's," Einstein said. "He had a lot of baby fat on him. But we taught him technique and the correct form to do proper weight training. The improvement over the last several months has been tremendous."
DeMaria credits the role football has played in his life.
"The first time I ever played football was my freshman year," DeMaria said. "I don't think that I would be where I am right now without football. I used to feel bad about myself because it hurt my feelings when kids said things to me. But football gave me a big boost in my self-esteem."
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