caleb lomu

Highland tackle Caleb Lomu is among one of the top recruits in the country at his position. It has led to him being invited to compete in the All-American Bowl, one of the premier All-Star high school football games at the end of the season. (Dave Minton/GSN Staff)

Caleb Lomu admits he never took football serious leading up to the start of his high school career at Highland High School.

He played youth ball where he always stood out among the rest of the kids. He was always bigger, but he admits he was one of the softest on the team. Far from what he is on the field today.

Then, as a sophomore, his first Division I offer came in from Northern Arizona University. It was at the moment Lomu realized he had a future in football.

So, he got to work.

“I never really expected to play college football,” Lomu said. “I went to a few camps going into my junior year and that’s when I started to get recognized. That’s when I realized I could get somewhere with this and started to get more serious about this.”

Training sessions with local linemen gurus at Vydl Performance in Chandler helped his mechanics and footwork. That carried over to the summer and fall seasons, where he worked with Highland offensive line coaches Terry Fair and Bill Critchfield.

As a sophomore he was given the nod to start at the varsity level. It was at that moment he knew he couldn’t be the self-proclaimed “soft player” he once was. He had to flip a switch, so he did.

Now preparing for his last postseason run as a senior, Lomu has become one of the most feared offensive linemen in the state. His 6-foot-5, 260-pound frame can overpower any defensive end that lines up opposite of him.

Typically, in Highland’s offensive scheme with inside zone plays, the interior linemen lead the team in pancake blocks, where they bring the defender to the ground. But Lomu out of his left or right tackle position leads the team by a mile.

Fair said he has 67 heading into the final regular season game of the season.

“This last game he had 16,” Fair said. “Caleb’s ability to process information in real time as a tackle, it’s like he isn’t a high school kid. His football IQ is off the charts. He’s a special kid.”

Lomu isn’t just a menace on the field. He’s also a leader. He constantly helps out younger players. He leads in the weight room and various on-field drills.

Head coach Brock Farrel said he often finds himself telling other players to “do it like him.” That doesn’t happen because Lomu is a four-star tackle and regarded as one of the best in the country.

It’s simply because he does everything right.

“It’s great when your best players are also your best kids,” Farrel said. “He doesn’t do the bare minimum, he does it with excellence. He’s been a joy to have and to coach.”

Lomu has come a long way since that first offer. He’s gotten bigger, faster, stronger, more athletic and is now being pursued by some of the best college football programs in the country. He plans to make his commitment announcement sometime in November.

If he isn’t already, he is the best lineman prospect to ever come out of Highland’s football program. Farrel said he may be top three all-time at any position, alongside the late Marquis Cooper, Tyler Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who went on to have a long career in the NFL.

The thought of putting Highland on the national map is special to Lomu. He wants his teammates to get recognition. He wants the program to play in high-caliber games much like it did last year against Chaminade-Madonna from Florida in Las Vegas as part of the Geico State Champions Bowl Series.

“It’s a true blessing being able to represent my high school at a bigger level,” Lomu said. “I believe a lot of these kids a lot of kids on this team deserve to play Division I football.

“But being recruited it hopefully gives some looks to me school and other kids to be recruited.”

He’s well on his way to doing that. Not just with his recruitment, but the recognition he has received himself.

On Nov. 2, he was able to officially unveil his All-American Bowl jersey. But he didn’t do it alone. He had all of his teammates around him.

“It was pretty awesome seeing all the posts from All-American, I see all the big recruits do it,” Lomu said. “I got to do it in front of my whole team, my family was there, coaches. It was a super cool moment I got to share with everyone I love.”

Lomu already has a ring to his name alongside his teammates from last season. Now, he’s out to prove himself against the best of the best.

Heading into the final week of the regular season, Highland was No. 9 in the Open Division rankings. The Hawks want a spot in the top eight. They want to prove themselves.

“I would love to make the Open,” Lomu said. “Winning that 6A championship was amazing but I would like to take on bigger competition and prove ourselves.”