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Le Grand lineman finds strength in loss

LE GRAND -- The date has been burned into his mind.

So too has the image of his mother standing in the driveway of their home with tears rolling down her cheeks.

It was May 23, 2006 -- less than an hour after Le Grand High had let out for the day.

Ricky Galvez Jr. was seated near a window on the school bus, dreaming of summer fun, when he spotted his mother outside waiting for him, her face flush with emotion.

Something wasn't right.

"My mom was outside in the driveway with a phone in her hand," Ricky Jr. said.

Hours earlier, his father, Ricky Galvez Sr., was involved in a motorcycle accident on Interstate 5 in the Los Angeles area.

It was 6 in the morning, and Galvez Sr. was late for work. Still groggy, he jumped on his new Yamaha motorcycle and began his commute through Santa Ana.

He never made it.

Galvez sustained fatal injuries in the accident, leaving behind five children: Ricky Jr., 15-year-old Matt, twin 10-year-old boys and a college-aged daughter.

"It was like a nightmare," Ricky Jr. said. "We were pretty close. He'd come up to visit every two weeks or whenever he could.

"It was all a blur. It took me awhile to get over it. I wanted to shut down, but I couldn't. ... I couldn't show weakness in front of my family.

"I had to be the father figure in the house now."

Ricky Jr. has pressed on because "life has to go on," he says with amazing maturity.

Two years later, he remains on the fast track for success.

He is a three-year varsity starter for Le Grand, finds time for family and chores, and remains one of the school's brightest students.

Fresno State, his college of choice, would be foolish not to accept Galvez and his spotless 4.0 GPA.

"I think he's awesome," Le Grand coach Rick Martinez said. "He's the type of kid I'd want as my own."

Football has been his outlet -- for obvious reasons.

"It's fun because you can put the pain on somebody else," Galvez said.

A couple of Division I teams wear his bumps and bruises.

Golden Valley and Buhach Colony were manhandled by Galvez and Le Grand's massive line during summer camps and scrimmages.

"Those were some big boys," BC quarterback Kyle Davey said after their July scrimmage. "I wasn't expecting that."

There's bulk everywhere.

Galvez, a pulling guard, tips the scales at 250 pounds.

Senior Rigo Herrera is a 6-foot-3, 220-pound tackle and Emilio Tovar uses his squatty build to clog running lanes.

"Ricky and Rigo, those two guys are our anchors," said Martinez, whose team went 5-6 in 2007 and lost in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI playoffs.

"We expect them to be coaches out on the field. We can't speak enough about those two guys."

If you'd let him, Martinez could ramble on for days about Galvez, whose story has become a source of inspiration for his small-school team.

"When his dad was in the accident, I didn't see (Ricky) for a long time," said Tovar, one of his closest friends. "I heard that he might go to L.A. for a little bit.

"It was a rough time, but he's such a strong kid. He's been through a lot.

"He's a big inspiration for everyone. Whenever something bad happens, he's right there to tell us to pick our heads up and learn from our mistakes."