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The Kid Rates Top Billing
Franz Lidz
December 01, 1997
Actor Antonio Fargas wasn't bad in platform heels; son Justin is terrific in cleats
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December 01, 1997

The Kid Rates Top Billing

Actor Antonio Fargas wasn't bad in platform heels; son Justin is terrific in cleats

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Cream of the Crop
Justin Fargas (number 34), who may be the best running back prospect in the U.S., is one of the top five seniors, as rated by SuperPrep magazine.

NAME, POS.

HOMETOWN

HT.

WT.

1. DENNIS JOHNSON, DL

Harrodsburg, Ky.

6'6"

250

COMMENT: Has registered 15 sacks in 10 games and punted for a 39 4-vard average

2. RONALD CURRY, QB

Hampton, Va.

6'2"

190

COMMENT: Virginia-bound, two-sport star has 17 passing touchdowns and 14 more rushing

3. MATT HOLUDAY, QB

Stillwater, Okla.

6'4"

215

COMMENT: Holds state 6A record for career touchdown passes (68)

4. DAVID GIVENS, QB-WR-RB

Humble, Texas

6'

220

COMMENT: Option quarterback, but will probably move to running back or wide receiver

5. JUSTIN FARGAS, RB

Sherman Oaks, Calif.

6'1"

185

COMMENT: Versatile back has rushed for more than 5,000 yards in two seasons

Source: SuperPrep; through end of regular season.

It's hard enough to maintain your machismo when your father is known as Huggy Bear. It's harder still when Dad's most celebrated movie role was playing a drag queen. But it's near impossible when Dad's most memorable movie line was "I'm more man than you'll ever be and more woman than you'll ever get."

Such is the burden shouldered by Justin Fargas, a senior tailback for Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks, Calif. His father, Antonio, achieved cult status as Huggy Bear, the showy, knowy informant on the late 1970s TV cop series Starsky and Hutch. Justin has built his own following over the last two seasons, running for 5,310 yards and scoring 67 touchdowns, including 119 yards and two TDs in last Friday night's Southern Section Division III playoff game. And as his 3.1 grade point average attests, he can plow through textbooks as effortlessly as he runs through defensive linemen.

"Justin is a power slasher with breakaway speed and great size and balance," says Allen Wallace, whose SuperPrep magazine rates Fargas the best high school running back in the country. "He's a focused, fairly humble team player who has the willpower and classroom smarts to make it big at the college level."

The smarts that Antonio's characters displayed were of the street, not the classroom variety. His bad guys needed speed to stay ahead of badder guys. "In most of the parts I played, I either got beat up or was the victim," says Antonio, whose pimps, druggies and gang lords answered to names like One-Eye, Quickfellow and Doodlebug. "I ran just to survive." Though cruising 50, he still has the stringy, slightly shifty look that won him hustler roles in nearly a dozen blaxploitation epics, from Shaft to Cleopatra Jones. Then there were those gender-bending roles. "Nowadays a lot of straight actors are trying to make their mark as gays and transsexuals," he says. "I've been there, done that." Antonio has bagged the wig he wore so famously as the homosexual Lindy in Car Wash and bleached his hair Dennis Rodman-blond. And he wears two-tone loafers, not the Plexiglas-soled, goldfish-stocked platform shoes he sported to such great effect as Flyguy in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. "Justin's look is much more conservative," says his mother, Taylor, who was divorced from Antonio in 1988. "Flamboyance was not passed down in the genes."

The shady characters Antonio portrayed often wound up hanged, blown up or decapitated. As a prank he once left a latex cast of his severed head under Justin's sheets. The memory of uncovering the noggin still gives Justin shivers. "As a kid I'd catch my father's films and think, Wow! I can't believe that's Dad!" Justin says. "Watching him in those parts made me see him in a whole different way."

College coaches started to look at Justin differently during last season. While leading the Knights to a section championship game, he rushed for 2,970 yards—the third-highest total in state history—and scored 38 touchdowns. One score came after he somersaulted over a pile of players at the line of scrimmage, landing on his back on top of the pile, then sprang to his feet and dashed 40 yards to the end zone. Recruiters have been chasing Justin ever since. Michigan and USC seem closest to snagging him, though he won't rule out Stanford, UCLA, Northwestern or his high school's Indiana namesake. "Personally I hope he chooses Stanford," says Taylor. "If only because it offers the best education." Of course, she may have an ulterior motive. Manager of product development for the Williams-Sonoma catalog division in San Francisco, Taylor lives a short drive from the Cardinal campus.

At 6'1", 185 pounds, Fargas moves with ease and grace and contained power. As tackier after tackier slants into him, he advances, fending them off, in a series of jukes until he finds a gap to cut through like the serrated blade of a handsaw. "Justin reminds me a lot of Gale Sayers," says his coach, Kevin Rooney. "He's able to squeeze through small spaces and flow against the grain of the pursuit. And he delivers punishment to defenders rather than the other way around. He's a hell of a cornerback, too."

Justin was as precocious an athlete as Antonio was an actor. "He has always been quick on his feet," says Taylor. "I think it comes from running away from his older brother." At three Justin was riding a bicycle without training wheels. At six he had mastered his skateboard so completely that he was competing against kids twice his age. By 12 he toured Europe with a California all-star soccer team. Yet he didn't play organized football until he was 14, the same age at which Antonio had appeared in his first film. "My mom didn't want me to play football," Justin says. "She thought I was too skinny and was sure I'd get my knees broken."

He showed up at freshman practice on the second day of workouts, having just moved to Sherman Oaks from Newport, R.I., to live with Antonio again. Sizing up the small, bony 14-year-old, the coach asked, "What position do you want to play?"

"Running back," said Justin. It was the first thing that popped into his head. "I figured if you're a running back," he says, "they have to give you the ball." He figured correctly.

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