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PIGSKIN PREVIEW TAB An athlete, and a whole lot more

Bulldogs standout more than just a football player

By Pat Ruff

pruff@postbulletin.com

For so many years, Anthony Theisen must have felt like every Plainview jocks' little brother.

That kid so comfortable and advanced athletically, and with such a lust for sports, that starting at about age 7, he seemed to be at every Plainview ballpark, gymnasium and backyard at once.

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Where balls were bouncing or being tossed, there was Anthony, always playing with the older guys, and always holding his own.

The Plainview community couldn't wait to unveil their little prodigy. Turns out they wouldn't have to wait very long.

Brazilian roots

When Bill Theisen and wife Paula decided 15 years ago to add one more child to their family -- they already had two naturally-born daughters -- they weren't necessarily looking for a future athlete or even a boy. What they knew, though, was that they wanted to adopt, and wanted to bring in a child from a country not nearly as economically privileged as ours.

They found what they were looking for in Manaus, Brazil, where shacks abound and 90 percent of its 100,000 population lives below the poverty line. That's where they were given Anthony, all of 3 weeks old, and born to a girl who'd just turned 16.

While Bill and Paula weren't looking for a future athlete, they got one. An athlete and a whole lot more. And when you hear folks gush about Anthony, they invariably end with the whole lot more.

"Anthony is very humble for his abilities," said Plainview-Elgin-Millville football coach Bill Ihrke, who has had Theisen on his varsity since his freshman year, including starting him at halfback last year as a sophomore when he ran for over 1,000 yards.

"As long as I have known Anthony, he has been very physically and intellectually gifted (an A student)," Ihrke said. "Yet he has always worked hard, and when things have gone his way he has never gloated. He has respected the upper-classmen and done well with all the politics that goes with being a younger guy playing with upper-classmen.

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"I think he is a young man who is really on the right path."

Turns out Theisen's favorite path is basketball, where the now 6-foot-1, 185-pounder got his first taste of varsity action as an eighth-grader. He spent this summer playing loads of AAU basketball.

Football passion

Yet all the while, football was never far from his mind. In fact, as soon as the high school basketball season ended in March, Theisen dashed to the weight room, and hasn't stopped going there ever since. He's averaged three days a week in there, 90 minutes per time.

And it shows. He's gained 10 pounds of muscle since last football season, when he split time with Doug Kempenich as the Bulldogs' starting halfback and became P-EM's first sophomore to gain 1,000 rushing yards.

This season, Ihrke is expecting even more from him. While the coach wants Theisen to take even better advantage of his superior speed, quickness and vision, he is also looking for him to emerge in an area that won't show up in any statistical book.

After two years of playing a large role in a program that rarely features underclassmen, Ihrke wants the running back/defensive back to lead as much with his mouth as his legs. He wants those deferential days, when he was honored to be driven home from practice or taken to Perkins by his older teammates, to be done.

It's a good bet that Theisen will comply. Expect him to become one of the Bulldogs' primary leaders. Because when Ihrke speaks, Theisen listens.

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"(Ihrke) is a great motivator," Theisen said. "Before every game, he tells us a story. He speaks so well that often times the hairs on my neck will stand on end."

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