K-M standout Visa Thach to transfer, play for Lions

He can bench press 135 pounds 50 times.

Punch up his name on YouTube and more than a dozen highlight videos appear. Many are from the fall football season, when he was the starting linebacker at Kent-Meridian High. Another shows his tremendous prowess on the bench press, where he’s capable of tossing up 275 pounds three times.

On a recent sun-baked afternoon, he can be found working through strength and agility drills at French Field with half a dozen college athletes, two of whom play football at the University of Puget Sound, and another of whom is heading to Idaho State in the fall, and yet another who is going to Penn State to play rugby.

In the middle is the guy with the nearly shaven scalp, who posts the gaudy numbers on the bench press and who won’t be attending college in the fall. At 5-foot-9, 214 pounds and biceps the size of grapefruits, he fits right in with the college mix.

Except one thing: He’s just 15 years old.

On a summer day when most his age are hanging out and goofing off with friends during the warm afternoons of late June, Visa Thach is where he wants to be: training.

“The intensity and workouts, being around the older guys … it makes me want to work harder,” said Thach, who was the captain of the Kent-Meridian High defense last fall, even though he was just a freshman.

For Thach, the words come slowly and carefully, often sounding like a motivational advertisement one would see written on a T-shirt rather than coming from the mouth of a 15 year old.

But with each word and every syllable, one goal remains paramount to Thach.

“I am looking out for my future,” he said.

The future for the beefy and young linebacker started going airborne on May 29, when Thach took part in the National Underclassman Combine at Franklin High in Seattle. But he wasn’t just another face in the crowd during the Rivals.com-sponsored event.

Thach, who speaks softly and is polite almost to a fault, essentially was The Man. More than 300 football players in grades 9 through 11 from all over the Northwest attended. Each player was put through grueling tests: 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle, vertical jump, standing broad jump and bench press, among others.

When the one-day gathering was finished, Thach stood above most everyone else as he earned the combine’s Leadership and Defensive MVP honors. The achievement came with a $2,000 scholarship from the National Collegiate Scouting Association, which is used by colleges as a recruiting tool. The scholarship will go toward Thach’s athletic portfolio. That portfolio will be presented to various Division I schools across the nation through Rivals.com along with other sporting and recruiting Web sites.

But Thach isn’t about to rest on his laurels.

If anything, his accomplishment at the combine is pushing him to new levels already this summer.

“It means a lot,” said Thach, who recently enlisted with a training program at the Kent-based Imperial Fitness, which he was working out with at French Field during a recent Tuesday afternoon. “I realize now that I have to work a lot harder.”

Lucky for Thach, he’ll get that chance.

The scholarship came with an invitation to the Ultimate 100 camp, which is set for July 10-12 in Los Angeles.

Thach’s rapid ascension hasn’t been lost on those who’ve watched him work.

“I don’t know many 15 year olds like him,” said Ryan Riess, who owns, operates and trains athletes out of Imperial Fitness. “He’s a hard worker. He’s on another level right now physically and mentally (than other 15 year olds).”

Thach’s new coach at Auburn Mountainview Mike Clancy agrees.

“He enrolled a couple weeks ago through our registrar office,” Clancy said. “I didn’t know a lot about him at first, but his qualifications as a starter and leader for Kent-Meridian proceed him. We’re excited to have him and work with him and have him on our team.”

According to Clancy, he says the team has already elevated their performance in response to Thach’s work ethic in conditioning this summer.

“He’s already making this team better,” Clancy said.

Idaho State-bound lineman Isaiah Walker, Thach’s teammate at K-M, agrees.

“He’s got unlimited talent,” Walker said. “He’s very dedicated and works hard. He will go far because he wants it.”

But what Thach wants most of all is to play football at the University of Michigan after graduating from high school.

It’s a dream that began when he was just 9 years old, playing for the Kent Knights. That dream continued to grow while Thach was an eighth grader at Mill Creek Middle School, a time when he also was the water boy at K-M.

And though Thach is still just 15 and hasn’t yet begun his sophomore year in high school, it’s a dream he believes is well within reach — one that will only become closer the harder he works. It helps explain why he enlisted in the training program at Imperial Fitness and why he finds enjoyment in working out with athletes several years older.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Michigan since I was young and I’m really focusing on that,” said Thach, who is equally gifted in the classroom, where he sports a 3.6 grade-point average. “I love the sport and I love working hard.

“I have to be really dedicated.”