For being one of the Metro League’s biggest and baddest football players, O’Dea lineman Owen Prentice sure is a nice guy.

Prentice, a big redhead nicknamed “Ozone” by O’Dea coaches because he makes foes disappear, makes teammates feel welcome and opponents feel discarded. If you wear a different color uniform, you don’t want to face the punishing Prentice, who uses all of his 6-foot-3½, 280-pound frame to his advantage.

“Owen will make a new friend really fast,” said O’Dea linebacker Styles Siva-Tu’u, who was a teammate with Prentice when they began their football careers in fourth grade. “If there’s somebody new on the team, he’ll make them feel like they are home. He’s making jokes, having fun and just friendly.”

Prentice, an offensive guard and defensive tackle, didn’t turn heads immediately when he started football in the Rainier Ravens junior program. But it wasn’t long before he made strides.

“When I first met Owen, he didn’t know much about how to play football,” Siva-Tu’u said. “He didn’t know much at first, because he mostly played rugby growing up. It was his first time coming on the field and he was getting the hang of it. Over the first week, he started picking it up really fast.

“He was very aggressive, and he was able to move for a big guy.”

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Prentice’s junior season at O’Dea has been strong, helping the top-ranked Irish (6-0, 3-0 Metro League) average 316.2 yards per game on the ground.

So how can someone so nice be so mean? It all probably started with rugby at age 5 and not getting pushed around.

“You just have to be ready to fight the other guy across from you,” Prentice said. “You can’t give up as an offensive lineman, because it’s those little times where you let up and that’s where they will beat you and go make the tackle. So, you have to play to the echo of the whistle.”

Rugby provided the athletic foundation for Prentice, whose family is rooted in the sport. The local Atavus Rugby club was started by his father Chris and mother Julie and they also are part owners of the Seattle Seawolves of Major League Rugby.

Older brother Gavin is a freshman playing on the Harvard men’s rugby team and older sister Emily, a senior, is part of the Harvard women’s rugby team.

“As I continued into high-school football, I found that what I enjoy most is playing football,” said Prentice, who still plays rugby for the Eastside Lions, where he got his first taste of the sport. “That’s what I’m going to pursue. I’m still going to play rugby this year, but I’m not sure about senior year. You have to do everything as a rubgy player. Everyone runs, everyone tackles, everybody passes, so it also factors in to staying in shape, being athletic and having a good motor.”

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Prentice has Pac-12 football offers from Washington, USC, California and Oregon State. Prentice has taken unofficial visits to Oregon, Washington State, Michigan, Notre Dame and Wisconsin. He is rated as the No. 8 prospect in the state by 247Sports.com for the Class of 2021 and the No. 16 offensive guard in the nation.

Since earning a starting position at offensive guard as a freshman, Prentice has been a fixture in the O’Dea starting offense. He earned the starting spot with the Irish midway through the season with the 2017 team, which won the Class 3A state title.

“It’s been a process and he’s bigger, stronger and better and that’s led to his trajectory as one of the best linemen in the area,” said longtime O’Dea coach Monte Kohler, who is in his 35th season. “He’s the only freshmen to start and keep the job since I’ve been coach.”

Kohler, the state’s winningest active coach at 341-55, named Mark Tafia as his first freshman starter during his tenure back in 2015 at running back, but he didn’t remain as a starter. Prentice was the program’s second freshman to start, but he stayed put in the lineup and evolved into a two-way starter as a sophomore and junior.

Prentice was about to earn a starting job as freshman after missing much of his eighth-grade year of sports with a herniated disc in his back.

“The most impressive thing about him is that he’s a very physical player on offense, but he’s also a two-way player, so he brings that to both sides of the ball,” said Bishop Blanchet coach Dominic Salle, 2010 O’Dea graduate and former Irish lineman. “He came in and started as a freshman and that’s hard to do anywhere, but to do that on a state championship team is impressive.

“The fact that he started as a freshman for O’Dea, says it all.”