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A.J. on the go

A.J. Dutra had a very busy, and very successful, senior year as a three-sport star at Sherwood High School
by: Jaime Valdez, 2006 Sherwood High School graduate A.J. Dutra was a standout player for the Bowmen football, basketball and track teams.

SHERWOOD - A.J. Dutra rarely took a day off.

From a long football season, to a long basketball season, to the track and field season - there just wasn't time for much rest.

Dutra, who graduated from Sherwood High School on June 9, wouldn't have had it any other way.

And, looking at the results, who could blame him?

Three sports, four years and a lot of success - topped off with a state championship.

'I played all three sports all four years and I had only about four days of rest, including the summer,' Dutra said. 'But I never considered giving up a sport. I just had to focus - and it all paid off in my senior year.'

Did it ever.

Dutra, in his senior year at, was a big-play receiver and kick returner for the Bowmen football team that reached the Class 3A state title game for the second year in a row. He provided a spark on both offense and defense for the Sherwood boys basketball game that reached the Class 3A state tournament.

He capped his big senior season off by winning the championship in the long jump at the Class 3A state track and field meet.

'I can't complain about my senior year,' Dutra said with a smile.

It was a senior year that saw Dutra excel, over and over again, while drawing oohs and ahs from the crowd at the various Sherwood sporting events due to his athletic feats.

'He's a crowd-pleaser,' Sherwood track and field coach Terrel Smith said. 'When he jumped, he just seemed to fly.'

'Before A.J., we never threw lobs to (5-foot-8) players, and I'm not sure he was even 5-8,' Sherwood basketball coach Brian Burke said.

Dutra has another honor for his amazing senior year as he has been named the Tigard/Tualatin Times Athlete of the Year, from Sherwood High School, for the 2005-2006 school year. The honor goes to the top senior-class athlete, as seen by the Times, at Sherwood High School.

'He's a great kid and he deserves every honor he gets,' Sherwood football coach Greg Lawrence said. 'He worked hard for it and put the time in.'

Time - Dutra didn't have much of it during his senior year. But he does have plenty of humbleness.

'This year was a really big surprise,' he said. 'It's a blessing. I'm guessing that not too many people get the chance to do what I got to do this year.'

Dutra's super senior season started off with football in the fall, where the Bowmen were looking to reach the state title game for the second year in a row.

Sherwood accomplished that feat with Dutra, all 5-foot-8, 150 pounds of him, playing a key role as a receiver and kick returner.

'With his speed, he was a tremendous asset,' Lawrence said. 'With all of his big returns on special teams, he gave us a different dimension.'

In addition to his big returns throughout the season, Dutra also had 12 pass receptions for 252 yards (a 21.0 yards a catch average) and four TDs. He also completed his only pass attempt of the season (coming in the Bowmen's 35-21 win over rival Wilsonville) for a 39-yard gain.

He earned first-team All-TVL honors for his play at receiver. All of that isn't bad for someone that doesn't really consider football to be one of his main sports.

'Football was never really my big sport,' Dutra said. 'My dad was the fastest kid in his school and I got my speed from him. People said I should try football, so I gave it a try. By my sophomore year, I was catching the punts and making the returns.'

Since then, he's made plenty of big plays and compiled plenty of memories.

From his senior season alone, there was an amazing kick return against Central, a one-handed catch in the Bowmen's opening series in the state championship game with Marist, and, of course, the win at Wilsonville with the Tri-Valley League title and the state's No. 1 ranking on the line.

'I don't think we've ever had more intensity than we had against Wilsonville,' he said. 'We were so ready for that game. There was so much adrenaline when we stepped off the bus two hours before the game and saw a long line of people waiting to get in. How can you not be excited when you see that?'

Dutra, and the Bowmen, were playing football until the final day of the season, back on Dec. 10, when they were edged 17-13 by Marist in the state title game.

'To get the to the championship game two years in a row is amazing,' Dutra said.

But he didn't have time to reflect on that as he went straight into basketball season.

'I had no days off,' he said. 'In the preseason, I didn't really want to play. The football players were two weeks behind everyone, we had a bunch of injuries and we weren't really playing like a team. Something had to happen.'

Something did.

'Tyson (Christie) and I stood up one day after practice and said we had to come together,' Dutra said. 'That helped turn it around.'

From there, the Bowmen took off. Sherwood went on to win its first Tri-Valley League championship since 1982 and they went on to place sixth at the Class 3A state tournament held at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis.

'Things were really positive,' Dutra said. 'Winning the league title was indescribable. I'll also remember all of the games at Gill Coliseum. Fans and players from all over the state were cheering you on. It was an awesome season and I want to thank all the coaches for that.'

Dutra, who started some games and came off the bench in others, turned up the intensity on both ends of the court.

'He was so good at pressuring the other team's point guard,' Burke said. 'It was great to have an athlete of that caliber. He's also one of the nicest kids I've coached.'

The second that play ended at the state basketball tourney, Dutra turned his focus to the track season, where he had one specific goal in mind - winning the state long jump championship.

The year before, as a junior, he finished second in that event at the state meet. This year, he wanted the title. And he got plenty of help from the Sherwood coaches in his quest.

'I missed the first two weeks of track because of the basketball, but, before that (Sherwood jumps) Coach (Wendell) Otto gave me a book and, on it, it said `A.J.'s track schedule.' It had every workout for me for every day for the entire season marked down. (The coaches) wanted it just as bad as I did. I said `if they were going to put all this effort in, then I'm going to do it.''

Everything was going as planned throughout the season leading up the state meet. But, prior to the state meet, Dutra found himself battling illness.

'It might have happened for a reason,' he said. 'I gained five or six pounds since last year. Being sick was almost like someone saying `you need to lose 12 pounds.''

The drama didn't stop there.

Dutra scratched on the first two of his three preliminary attempts in the long jump competition at state.

'I'll never forget those two scratches,' he said. 'As nervous as I was on the third jump, I didn't know what to think - I just had to get a mark.'

He not only got a mark, he got the winning mark with his leap of 21-11½.

'I just stayed calm and prayed,' he said. 'I hit the board perfect. It didn't feel like a good jump, but when I saw the mark, I was smiling from ear to ear. With all the nervousness and adrenaline, it was amazing.'

Soon after, Dutra took his spot on top of the award stand at the Hayward Field, where Smith presented him with his medal.

'He said `A.J., that's what I've been waiting for,'' Dutra said with a smile.

'That was a shining moment,' Smith said. 'He's a gamer.'

There to watch it all - in football, basketball and track - was Dutra's family.

'Our family is really close,' Dutra said. 'We've got a huge family of athletes. They're all real supportive. They've been there for everything.'

Dutra's family support comes from, among others, his parents Jackie and Andy, his younger sister Amanda, who was the District 2 girls soccer Player of the Year last fall, his younger brother Nick and his uncle Bob.

'My family has been great,' A.J. said. 'And the coaches at Sherwood have been the greatest. I'll cherish every moment of high school sports here.'

As for the future, Dutra has received a scholarship to jump for the University of Oregon track and field team.

'I was at the bottom of the food chain when I started sports at high school and I worked my up,' he said. 'Now, I'll be back at the bottom of the food chain - why can't it happen again?'

One thing, however, is for sure. The University of Oregon track team doesn't have to worry about Dutra taking a day off.