Adam Webber would bounce around the sidelines at Highland High School, run onto the field with water when it was needed and soak up the experience.
He learned the plays and the language and the expectations. Webber prepared himself for his football career at Highland while watching his older brother, Jake, play for the Rams through 2006.
"I remember thinking going into my freshman year [in 2010], 'I'm just going to work to get on varsity and play special teams,' " Webber said. "Then I was playing hard enough that I was opening coaches' eyes and playing some linebacker."
He started all but four games that year, an unbelievable beginning for a freshman.
Webber, now a junior, is the last remaining starter from the 2010 Rams team that won the Class 4A state championship.
"The last 2 1/2 years have gone by like it's a blur to me," Webber said. "It feels like it's been one season."
Highland is 2-1 after losing to Herriman last week and plays defending Class 5A champion Lone Peak on Thursday, Sept. 6.
While there are higher-profile college recruits and more explosive athletes on the roster than Webber, who is playing running back as well as linebacker this year, the team's success starts with the player whose nickname remains "Freshman."
Coach Brody Benson said he initially had concerns that Webber might be tougher to rein in because he was "Jake's little brother." He was playful and chatty as a water boy. But things changed when he joined the team.
"He kind of shut his mouth and went to work," Benson said. "Which has kind of been his M.O. since he got here."
At 5 foot 10, Webber is not anybody's prototype, but he is more than a charming anomaly for Highland. He's a player who happened to get a chance earlier than the rest.
"He does have some God-gifted skills," Benson said. "He flat outworks people. He's going to be tough."
Webber was a champion ski racer until eighth grade, when he gave up the sport to focus on football. He plays this game like that one: with contained recklessness. He played most of last year with a torn labrum while fighting his shoulder's persistent urge to pop out of the socket.
"It's the worst feeling I ever felt," Webber said, "because it was just that one little pop, then it would go back in. It felt like a hammer just hitting the top of your shoulder."
With doctors' assurances that he could not do any more damage to the shoulder and that offseason surgery awaited, Webber often would run off the field for a couple of plays, sometimes crying, and swing his shoulder around until blood got flowing, and the subluxation would subside and the ball of the shoulder locked into place again.
"Obviously he's tougher than nails to be able to do that," Benson said. "But it just shows that the kid's passionate about playing the game."
In addition to Webber's physical attributes Benson says he is one of the two fastest players on the Highland roster he is known for being a "cerebral" player, the product of being around the game when his brother played.
Jake Webber later walked on at Brigham Young, and Benson figures Adam has a future in college, too, although no one has yet made an offer.
"I don't know where that college is going to be," Benson said, "but somebody is going to have to take a chance on him just because of how he plays the game."
Highland at Lone Peak, Thursday at 7 p.m.
Jr., LB/RB, Highland
Started nine games as a freshman in 2010 and helped the Rams to the Class 4A state title.
Scored a touchdown in Highland's opening-week win over Cedar this season.
Was Highland's leading tackler in 2011 with 68 tackles.