Union putting it all on the line

first_img Tags The Columbian is becoming a rare example of a news organization with local, family ownership. Subscribe today to support local journalism and help us to build a stronger community. Share: He was always fascinated by American football growing up surrounded by mixed martial arts in Europe, but didn’t know high school fall football practices started in mid-August when he moved 8,600 miles to start sophomore year in Vancouver. A teacher and coach spotted him in PE class in September 2016 and that’s how Salagor met Rosenbach.Then, there was a language barrier. Salagor didn’t know the difference between a football formation and a first down. He wanted to play receiver or possibly running back. That’s what he saw on NFL highlight-reel internet video clips.“I didn’t know there was a (offensive or defensive) line,” Salagor said. “The only thing I knew about football was a weird ball flying around with weird people flying into each other.”Union coaches, however, had other plans besides skill positions for Salagor.In Europe, Salagor’s mixed martial arts background of boxing and sambo, a Russian-style of judo, fueled for a successful transition into football. Boxing’s culture, particularly the mental toughness, has remained, he said. So do specific moves. (360) 735-4521 [email protected] Salagor returned to the Czech Republic twice last fall, meaning he missed about half the season. But this fall, he hasn’t missed a game and also saw spot time on defense as recently as last Saturday’s state quarterfinal win.But there’s something special about an offensive line group, Salagor said, that includes post-game meals at Five Guys. In addition to Salagor at left tackle, the offensive line also includes left guard Giovanny Rojo, center Jack Grimsted, right guard Manaia Fuertes, right tackle Rocky Mataia in addition to Devon Wilson, who plays the interior positions.“It’s like a family on the line,” he said. “I like it. Everybody has their role in our small community.”And Salagor, post-boxing career and another language later, found his role and his sport. By signing up you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. Buy this Photo Union lineman Dumitru Salagor was born in Moldova and spent some of his childhood in the Czech Republic before his family settled in Vancouver in 2016. He started playing football that same year, having never played before. Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian Union putting it all on the line Salagor’s boxing background works well at left tackle GO Dumitru Salagor fluently speaks Russian, Czech and English, understands Romanian and now grasps football language and terminology after first watching the sport in Europe through YouTube clips.There’s times when Salagor misses his birth country of Moldova and also the Czech Republic, where he spent eight childhood years before relocating to the United States with mom, dad and younger brother, and settling in Vancouver in 2016.Union football coach Rory Rosenbach will be shocked if Salagor, the Titans’ starting left tackle, isn’t playing college football this time next year. That’s a far cry from where Salagar started roughly two years ago: No background playing American football.And as Rosenbach can attest to, you can in fact teach new tricks to a 6-foot-6, 250-pound ex-boxer. The good news for Union is there’s still a bit of boxing flavor — toughness, balance and coordination — hidden in every down the senior plays.“Football took over,” Salagor said of his new favorite sport. “I like football more than I do boxing.”That project is now an all-league piece. Salagor has started all 12 games at left tackle for the top-seed Titans (12-0), who host Puyallup (11-1) in Saturday’s 1 p.m. Class 4A state semifinal at McKenzie Stadium.It’s a rematch of a Week 5 nonleague game won by Union 38-31.Salagor’s story might be a prototypical football project turned success story, but it goes beyond that. Union Titans Receive latest stories and local news in your email: Subscribe Today Share: Meg Wochnick Columbian staff writer @MegWochnick By Meg Wochnick, Columbian staff writer Published: November 23, 2018, 10:00pm “Especially on the line,” he said. “The boxing style (punch) really helps me a lot, too, especially on the run-blocking scheme to get guys moving on the line.”Rosenbach, now in his third season at Union, assumed he’d get two solid years as a defensive lineman, but the growth on the offensive line made for a natural fit. Not only physically, but gaining strides by understanding the game by asking questions beyond his years to the coaching staff.“Fundamentally,” Rosenbach said, “he’s become super good. He gets it and he’s really smart. He asks next-level stuff.“He’s going to keep getting better. If he’s not playing on Saturdays, it’s a shame.”last_img read more