At a formative time in his development as a lineman, Nick Haviland had good timing and a good role model.

As a freshman in the fall of 2014, the weight room at West Valley was filled with the oversized presence of Shane Lemieux, who this season will be in his second year as a starting offensive lineman at the University of Oregon.

“My coaches told me to go in the weight room and listen to everything Shane says and watch everything he does,” Haviland said. “He really showed me the value of hard work.”

Three years later, heading into Haviland’s senior year, the results of that early inspiration are evident.

The 6-foot-2, 300-pound center will be a three-year starter and is the Columbia Basin Big Nine’s lone returning first-team offensive lineman. Yakima has produced a run of high-quality big men, like Eisenhower’s two-time CBBN lineman of the year Brian Greene, and Haviland clearly is intent on keeping that tradition going by boosting his bench max to 365 pounds and his squat max to 565.

And the weight room isn’t his only workplace. Not only is Haviland involved in wrestling and track and field, he plays rugby for the Yakima Griffins U-19 team.

A 300-pound rugby player?

“My job is to win scrums, be a good tackler and get the ball back,” he explained. “I started playing as a sophomore and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great team game. Wrestling has been good for my flexibility and balance and those are things I’m always working on so I’ll be good on my feet.”

Being mobile and sturdy while moving is a high priority in West Valley’s spread offense, which calls for a considerable amount of pass protection with standout quarterback Brandon Battle coming off a record-setting junior season.

“I think we’ve got one of the best in the state at quarterback,” said Haviland, whose snaps at center are almost always in the shotgun formation. “We do a lot of pass pro and you just have to be patient and give as little ground as possible.”

Frustratingly, West Valley finished a game out of first place last year with a 51-14 thumping of top-seeded Moses Lake to its credit. There will be a lot of new faces this season, especially among Battle’s receiving crew, and they must deal with the same challenging nonleague slate that led to an 0-3 start a year ago. After opening at home against Mercer Island, West Valley travels to Chiawana and then hosts Heritage.

That’s why having a motivated, hard-working leader like Haviland, who is also a very strong student, will be crucial for the Rams.

“There’s still some learning ahead for the new guys,” he noted, “but I think we’re going to be pretty good.”