One day, Max Coale would like to be a doctor. He already appears to be training for the long hours necessary to get through medical school with a schedule that keeps him studying past midnight six days a week.
"I take Sunday off," he said.
Though his future is bright, current events occupy his every minute and his main concern at the moment is River Hill's next football game. The senior, 6 feet 4 and 240 pounds, is the Hawks' senior starter at offensive tackle and defensive end. In the spring, he plays lacrosse for his school team.
He has a 4.0 grade-point average and is being recruited to play football not only by Football Bowl Subdivision schools, but by Ivy League schools, too.
"We saw good signs from the beginning with him," River Hill football coach Brian Van Deusen said of his three-year starter. "He has always had a great work ethic, and his [weight-room] work in the offseason has made him stronger."
Van Deusen said what Coale is managing and has already accomplished over the past three years is impressive.
"He's a two-sport athlete who maintains a 4.0 grade-point average," the coach said. "That's pretty tough to do, especially considering he has consistently taken AP [advanced placement] classes. It really is pretty impressive."
Coale is a team captain this season, a member of the Science National Honor Society, an Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction and a member of the National Honor Society, putting in 30 additional hours of community service, inside and outside the school.
Question: : I hear from your coach that you're taking a number of difficult courses this season. Isn't your senior year supposed to be easy?
Answer: : Typically, you are supposed to have a light load. But for the colleges I'm looking at, you're advised not to take slouch courses. If you take a year off, you're going to get away from being used to a lot of studying. Last year, I was up studying until 2:30 every morning. My load this year is still enough to keep me up to midnight.
Q:: What kinds of courses are you taking?
A:: I'm mainly a science kind of guy - chemistry, anatomy, biology and psychology. I want to be a doctor because I think working with people, while being able to exercise the sciences - biology, anatomy, to see those sciences working together, not in a lab but working with people - is something I would enjoy.
Q:: Will you pick your school based on which one wants you to play football?
A:: No. My number one choice will be based on academics, definitely. I'm not going to play football forever, as much as I love it. I plan on having a life after that. I have to get an education first.
Q:: Have you always loved football?
A:: Actually, the sport I really love is lacrosse. And I pursued it. But I found the schools that I'm interested in for academics are primarily schools with Top 10, nationally ranked lacrosse teams. I'm a pretty good lacrosse player, but not that level. Every one of them told me the same thing, "Great stick skills, but a little too slow." So when the football coaches at those same schools - Princeton, Harvard and Brown - started to talk to me, I started to listen. They're all phenomenal schools. If any one of them would like me to play football for them, it would be a great opportunity.
Q:: Is it very disappointing to be pursuing football instead of lacrosse?
A:: I look like a football player. I'm pretty big and move fast enough. Football is not the sport I loved, loved, loved to death. But the more I've played it, the more I've liked it.
Q:: Have you ever lost a high school football game?
A:: No. I'm 33-0 as a starter.
Q:: River Hill has won the 2A state championship each of the last two years. But a lot of seniors graduated last year. Is this team, which still hasn't lost this season, different from those other two?
A:: Much different. Last year, we had a lot of guys who were lights-out athletes - Malek [Redd], Leron [Eaddy] and Michael [Campanaro]. You could tell them to do anything and they'd get it done. You'd miss a block and they'd still make nine guys miss and you'd look up to see them running into the end zone.
This year, we don't have all that athletic talent. But what we've gained is team chemistry. For us to win, it takes all 11 guys working together. This year, every player matters. All of us have to do our jobs or the play won't work. It's much more satisfying because even though we were all trying hard last year, it wasn't that serious if you messed up.
Q:: What do you do on Sunday, your day off?
A:: Watch college and NFL football, mainly. Go out with friends, go to movies.
Q:: What's your favorite movie?
A:: I guess if I had to pick, The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Q:: Is The Lord of the Rings series your favorite books as well?
A:: Yes. They're all about 400 pages long, and I read the whole series in about a month. It was a killer when the movies came out and you had to wait a year between each one. The day after the DVDs came out, I was there getting the extended editions.