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Anthony Costleigh: Valencia’s hammer

Anthony Costleigh isn’t the biggest kid on the field, but he packs a serious punch

Posted: November 22, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 22, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Valencia linebacker Anthony Costleigh leads Valencia with 91 tackles on the season.

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There’s the hammer.

And there’s the nail.

And regardless of Valencia senior linebacker Anthony Costleigh being just 5-feet, 10-inches tall and 185 pounds, he’ll hammer any nail, any size.

Valencia defensive coordinator Robert Waters says he is one of the biggest hitters Valencia has ever had.

“I don’t know why. You have to ask him,” Waters says on how a kid of his size has a fearlessness beyond that of most players who have played for the Vikings. “But hitters to me, they’re different than other kids. They don’t think about the what ifs, I guess. They just know I’m going through you. Done deal.”

Throw this on for size.

Costleigh, who leads the Vikings with 91 tackles and is second with five interceptions (he also has two sacks and seven quarterback hurries), is one of the most humble and polite kids you’ll meet.

The 17-year-old, a two-year varsity player whose brothers Nico and Mike played varsity football at Valencia, is a “yes sir, no sir” kind of kid.

And he’s quiet.

“Solid kid. Solid family. Just good people. Down-to-Earth, salt-of-the-Earth people,” says Valencia head coach Larry Muir of the Costleighs. “He comes from a line of workers. Michael Costleigh, Nico, they went to work.”

A.J., as he respectfully prefers to be called, explains that he is the way he is off the football field because of his father, Michael.

“There’s one person who motivates me a lot and that’s my dad,” Costleigh says. “He’s the hardest worker I know. His work ethic makes me want to try my hardest.”

Costleigh’s father, Mike, is a 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

He says he’s always tried to instill in his children that if you work hard, good things will happen.

He explained that Costleigh’s disposition is always the same at home.

“It’s unbelievable. He’s very shy. But on the football field he’s a terror,” Mike says. “He’s a real quiet kid — very shy — but on the field, football’s his life. I guess he gets it from within himself. I never played any sports so it doesn’t come from me.”

A.J. explains that, as many successful football players have learned to do, he flips a switch when he gets on the field.

But it takes some motivation — if someone shows him up, if he’s challenged, he’ll get angry.

Recently, his grandmother died and the emotional outpouring was displayed on the football field with his play.

That next game after his grandmother’s death was Valencia’s critical 54-41 victory over Canyon on Oct. 19 that catapulted the Vikings to their fourth straight Foothill League championship.

Costleigh had a team-leading 10 tackles and he recovered a fumble during the game.

Once something gets Costleigh going, it’s bad news for the opponent.

His coaches have seen it for two varsity seasons.

Muir says other coaches have come up to him and marveled at Costleigh’s play.

“I think he plays with a nastiness,” Muir says. “Certainly fearlessness is part of it, but he’s just nasty. He plays to make an impression on his opponent. Whoever he’s hitting, he’s not tackling them to take them down. You can tell he’s trying to make an impression on that person.”

He did that to West Ranch High quarterback Gerrit Mouw when the pair were junior varsity players.

Early in a 2010 game, Costleigh ran through Mouw, hitting the quarterback so hard that his helmet broke and tumbled, Costleigh says, 15 yards.

Mouw was on the ground for a while and Costleigh says he felt instant remorse. But he remembers the play being a momentum swinger for the Vikings.

Costleigh has the play saved on his phone to this day.

Where did he get the video?

From Mouw.

Mouw has highlight videos on a website and gave Costleigh the login and password.

“After the hit we became friends,” Costleigh says. “Ever since that hit, he’s been wanting me to go on his team. (He said), ‘We really need linebackers. Come to West Ranch.’”

But the hammer stayed at Valencia, and the Vikings will need it Friday in the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division semifinals against a Palos Verdes team that averages 36.8 points per game.

There’s a lot of motivation for a Vikings program that has reached three semifinals in four seasons.

A burning desire to get to its first CIF championship game since 2004.

The switch is on for an entire team. And one hammer, regardless of its size, is ready to pound some nails.

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