Tomas Torres

Senior defensive tackle Tomas Torres has 44 tackles and six sacks for Temple, which plays Rockwall-Heath tonight in an area-round playoff.

Tomas Torres keeps a fond memory stashed away of a particular Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. He was in the fourth or fifth grade and his dad, Clemente, a former collegiate tight end for Rice, had taken him to watch a Temple football game.

“I remember sitting with my dad and he was analyzing it, and I was asking him questions. I had never watched a game that way. I developed a liking to it more and more,” Torres said. “Growing up in Temple watching the games, you’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I can’t wait to grow up and be a Wildcat.’”

It just so happened that Torres went ahead and grew into a 6-foot-5, 255-pound Wildcat and key contributor on Temple’s defensive line.

Last week against Waxahachie, Torres, who goes by Tommy, posted a season-high seven tackles, three for losses, including a sack, from his tackle spot as Temple beat the Indians 28-14 to advance to the Class 6A Division II area round for the second consecutive season. Torres, a senior, and the rest of the defense now embrace the challenge of facing Rockwall-Heath at 7:30 tonight at Burleson ISD Stadium in an area-round rematch.

“He’s been really solid,” Temple head coach Scott Stewart said.

Solid, sturdy, studious, reliable, team captain, coachable, accountable and upstanding teammate. Those all are perfect ways to describe Torres, who has 44 tackles and six sacks — second to defensive end Jaylon Jackson’s seven — and has proven to be a viable option on 2-point conversions, catching a pair of passes this season when Temple decided to forgo the traditional PAT kick.

Verbose and vivacious, however, are not among the list of adjectives that fit the friendly 12th-grader.

“There is a lot of personality in that D-line room but Tommy is kind of that steady giant. We always talk about Tommy never showing emotion, but it’ll come out on the field,” Temple defensive coordinator Dexter Knox said. “I’ve seen him dance, and I’m like ‘Oh, whoa, Tommy, showing emotion.’

“He loves being around the guys and playing the game, but he is naturally a quiet guy.”

No worries, though, because what Torres produces in the trenches speaks plenty, especially lately.

Torres recorded three — two against Copperas Cove in the regular-season finale and the one last week — of his six sacks and five of 10 tackles for losses over the last two games. The timely burst is partially because he finally feels like himself after dealing with a nagging ankle injury he limped away with in Week 3.

“It’s progressively been getting better and better and better, and I think I played my full-speed last game. I was 100 percent,” Torres said.

Stewart noticed. The Indians felt it.

“Dude was on a different level,” Stewart said.

Another level applies to the classroom as well.

Torres isn’t taking his senior year lightly in the academic department. His schedule is loaded with four Advanced Placement classes. He boasts a 5.3 GPA on an elevated 6-point scale because of his course selection, and he said he ranks fourth in the senior class. “But, I’m the number one boy,” he specified.

Torres would like to major in architectural engineering and has been accepted to Texas A&M. But he still isn’t decided if College Station is where he’ll end up like his sister, Juliana, a four-year standout volleyball player for the Tem-Cats.

“I just have to stay focused on my work, on the field and at school,” Torres said. “Sometimes it’s a little stressful with the school work but I can fight my way through it.”

That’s not unlike what is required of him Friday nights against double-team blocks doled out by opponents who are likely at least 20 pounds heavier.

Torres inherited the athletic ability from Clemente but also a musical touch (he can play the drums) from his mom, Monica, a Temple grad who played trumpet in the band. He joined his first football team at the age of 6 and was always taller than most of his peers, so that first season he played against 8-year-olds.

Torres went from Western Hills to Bonham and then arrived at Temple where he was on JV as a freshman. He saw spot duty on varsity as a sophomore and parlayed that into a starting role at defensive end as a junior. He said he figured that’s where he’d play this season and lost weight to gain more speed. But with tackles Jayven Taylor and Cody Little graduated, needs were greater on the interior of Temple’s four-man front. Torres was tasked with the shift and didn’t hesitate.

“I’m just playing a little lighter now, but it’s fine,” he said. “I feel quicker but sometimes you need that extra weight because you’re playing against those bigger dudes inside.”

What Torres lacks in poundage, he balances with power and precision.

“We ask more of our D-line than most people do. I want our defensive linemen to consider themselves difference makers,” Stewart said. “He’s long, he understands leverage, he understands technique. We talk about block identification and block destruction. When you get a kid that’s more cerebral, he picks up on that stuff and that makes him more effective. Those big guys have trouble with him at times because we’re not going to just lay up and let physics take over.”

While Torres might not let his emotions take over, he is candid and clearly expresses, albeit concisely, the pride he feels as part of Temple’s program.

He’s come a long way from the curious, wide-eyed fan in the stands looking up to the players he watched. And as he stood on Bob McQueen Field last week for the final time in his high school career, being a Wildcat came full circle when he was on the other end of an awe-struck moment.

“This guy, with his child, they wanted a picture with me,” he said with a smile. “They actually knew me and I inspired them even though I didn’t know who they were. I thought that was so cool.”

Very cool, and there’s not much more that needs to be said after that.