CJ Verdell – Mater Dei High School

Originally published at SDFNL Magazine

Story by Eric Williams

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INTRO

Last season in the October edition of SDFNL Magazine, we featured Helix High School running back Nate Stinson. The 2015 KUSI Silver Pigskin Finalist was about to lead the Highlanders on a San Diego County CIF Open Division Championship ride that would culminate with Stinson scoring 5 touchdowns and rushing for 246 yards with 76 yards receiving in the title game vs. St. Augustine. Stinson finished the season with over 2,000 yards rushing and 35 TDs ending his career at Helix with right at 4,000 total yards of offense and 60 touchdowns. In another San Diego community located just 10 miles from the Mexican Border at Baja California; a 5’9” 195-pound Junior running back from Mater Dei High School was having as big of a statistical season as Stinson.

Originally known as Marian Catholic from 1960 to 2006, Mater Dei is a private, Roman Catholic high school in Chula Vista. The Crusaders football program has a record of 58-46 since 2007. Led by head coach John Joyner who began his tenure at Mater Dei in 2009, the school has a 46-22 record and five straight CIF playoff appearances since 2011. Under Coach Joyner, the 2016 Crusaders are coming off back-to-back Divsion-4 championships and are the first ever San Diego high-school football team to be moved up two divisions after a single season. The Crusaders smashed Reedley Immanuel 56 to 21 in the 2015 State Championship game, and Immanuel football coach Matt Armstrong had high praise for the 16-year old kid wearing the #5 jersey, Mater Dei’s featured back. “Their tailback is phenomenal. With him in the backfield, you really have to honor that aspect of their game,” said Armstrong. “You don’t see kids like that at the small schools level too often. I would venture to say that you don’t see that anywhere up and down the state.”

CJ Veredell – 5′ 9″ 195 lb

He’s been featured on ABC-10 San Diego, the KUSI Prep Pigskin Report, San Diego Prep Insider, the Mighty 1090, and the San Diego Union Tribune all within the past six months, but there is one play in particular that symbolizes the next-level potential college scouts have come to discover about CJ (Christopher Junior) Verdell. In the final week of the 2015 regular season, Verdell broke through the Mar Vista defense for a 99-yard touchdown run en route to a 48-7 Mater Dei victory. After eluding a lineman in the end zone, Verdell broke a tackle at the one-yard line, and another at the two, then lowered his shoulder and drilled a Safety onto his back at the ten, spinning and tip-toeing just inches from the sideline at the fifteen, juking a defender at the twenty-five, finishing with one final burst of speed all the way to the house. But that run isn’t the only thing that will define CJ Verdell’s football career at Mater Dei. When his senior year has finished, Verdell will be remembered as one of the best high school running backs in San Diego County history.

week-1-cj-verdell-2While missing the first four games of his sophomore season after breaking a bone in his foot late in the summer, Verdell also had a hip injury that limited his playing time, and he spent some time healing an ankle injury as well. Nevertheless, Verdell gave us a preview of his quickness breaking free for runs of 53 and 57 yards during that 2014 season. After a lot of intense physical therapy, he was poised to come back stronger and fitter than ever in 2015. Proving that hard work pays off, Verdell broke off runs of 65, 62, 80, 75, 84, 99, 56, 50, 65, and 66 yards during his junior season, racking up 2,677 total yards of offense and 34 touchdowns. During week five of 2015, he torched the Bishop’s high school defense for 381 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns on just 21 carries. Against El Capitan in week three, Verdell rushed for 185 yards and matched that rushing total versus Sweetwater in week 9.

The speedy running back is battle tested in big time games too. Averaging 160 rushing yards per game in the playoffs, Verdell lit Kearny up for 225 yards rushing in the 2015 CIF quarterfinals, hammered Mar Vista for 162 rushing yards in the semi-finals, and ran over Notre Dame High School for 196 yards rushing in the State Regional Final. Finishing with 2,135 yards rushing (12.6 yards per carry) and 28 touchdowns to go along with 15 receptions, 278 yards receiving and 5 touchdowns, Verdell led his team to a Division-4 San Diego Section CIF Championship and a Division V-AA State Championship en route to what “technically” was a perfect 15-0 season. Verdell also finished the 2015 season with 262 kick-return yards and a return touchdown to go along with 22 tackles and 2 INTs.

dsc_6148Mater Dei High School and San Diego County Football fans were eager to see what Verdell would accomplish in 2016, and five games into his senior year Verdell burned opposing defenses for 901 yards rushing, close to 100 yards receiving and 18 total touchdowns with runs of 84, 62, 50, 49, and 52 yards. Verdell told San Diego Union Tribune freelance writer Don Norcross that he wanted to win another State Championship and challenge the San Diego CIF rushing record set by Dillon Baxter in 2009. After leading the Crusaders to a 9-1 record and a #2 seed in the the CIF Division-2 Playoffs, Verdell finished the 2016 regular season with 1,624 yards rushing, and 28 total TDs, adding breakaway runs of 42, 65, and 80 yards on the season. Verdell rushed for 200 yards five times in 2016 including in each of Mater Dei’s last 3 games. Often labeled as a speed-back, Verdell is built much like a power-back. Now in his senior year, Verdell can squat close to 500 pounds, and bench press 305 while his 40-yard dash time is right at 4.5. Verdell says that his father has helped him with constant weight training and with planning a better diet, which in turn has helped CJ achieve more lean muscle. “My dad’s had a big impact on me,” Verdell told Norcross. “I get a lot of my work ethic from him.”

Verdell’s father Christopher is a Navy lieutenant commander, and it’s nothing but business and the weight room as Christopher posted on Twitter one day this past Summer: “CJ’s 5:30 A.M. weight training. No substitute for off-season strength gains. #WinTheDay.” On January 5, 2016 Under the Radar published a seven-minute highlight film of Verdell to their YouTube channel that now has over 11,000 views. On Jan 22, 2016, Verdell picked up his first full ride D1 offer from Southern Utah. Offered by almost every team in the Pac-12 since that day, Verdell stands at sixteen total D1 offers and has made a verbal commitment to Oregon after making an unofficial visit to the Ducks’ annual spring game on April 30. A humble person on and off the field, I got the chance to meet Verdell and his parents after Mater Dei’s big win over Mission Hills this past week. His family is kind, compassionate, and they care deeply about their son’s education and athletic career. “God has blessed CJ, and we are very grateful for his accomplishments,” Verdell’s father told me.

img_1704Like other great running backs, CJ Verdell has power, speed, great vision, and cuts that are subtle and precise. Able to long jump almost 24 feet, Verdell has great leaping ability as well. If you get a chance to see him play in person, he is a lot like Nate Stinson was in the sense that entire defensive game plans revolve around the fear of big runs by Verdell. For all the old timers like me, Verdell’s size and running style will remind you of three-time Super Bowl Champion Emmitt Smith who played for the Dallas Cowboys and shined in college at Florida. For the younger guys, Verdell’s game is very similar to that of 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram who played his college ball at Alabama and is now with the New Orleans Saints as their primary running back. Also a great option in the passing game just like both of those backs, Verdell runs hard and with balance, redistributing his body weight to make adjustments. That makes him very hard to tackle…IF you can catch him.

You can follow CJ Verdell on Twitter @Cjverdell_

You can follow Eric Williams on Twitter @WBKsports

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San Diego’s Best – Sampson Niu & Zeke Noa

Originally published at SDFNL Magazine

Story by Eric Williams

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Sydney“The two words that exemplify my dad the most are “passion” and “love.” Everything he achieved, accomplished or set his mind to was done with both qualities. In every situation — whether it be practice, a game, a family barbecue, an impromptu ukulele song or just a run on the Oceanside Strand — he always gave you all of himself because to him, there was never any other option.”

Sydney Seau from her speech before her father’s NFL Hall of Fame induction.

Intro

It was an early afternoon on January 16, 1995 when my friend Rob and I sat around a big-screen TV watching the Chargers clinch a trip to Super Bowl 29 after shocking the favored Steelers on the road. Later that evening, we started to get word that Jack Murphy Stadium (Qualcomm Stadium after 1997) was going to host a celebration upon the team’s arrival from Pittsburgh, so we jumped into my truck and headed down to Mission Valley. Traffic was bumper to bumper for miles around the roads entering the stadium, so we parked outside and walked down to the massive party that was happening inside. There were no Fire-Marshalls on site, no security guards at any gates, and attendance was free, so seventy-five thousand people jam-packed the stadium. With Chargers fans from all parts of San Diego, we sat in the aisles at the West end of the Loge section waiting for the team to show up. Junior was the first player to arrive and his passion was on full display when he spoke to the fans that night. I’ll never forget his iconic words: “They didn’t think beach bums played football, they thought this was only a tourist attraction, they know about Shamu, and now the World…THE WORLD…is gonna’ know, NOT about Junior Seau, NOT about Natrone Means, NOT about Stan Humphries, NOT about Leslie O’Neal, but….the San Diego Chargers.”

That next year, I was just a few years away from college graduation. I had been studying Sociology, and I was learning how to better the lives of troubled youth in San Diego. While working in the electronics department at Wal-Mart in Oceanside, my manger told me that Junior Seau was going to bring his “Toys for Tots” program to the store during Christmas season. The program was created by the Seau Foundation to provide Christmas presents to young children from low-income households. Seau brought in fellow players from the Chargers to our store one day in mid-December and took hundreds of kids shopping for gifts. The kids could pick anything they wanted; even gifts for their parents, and Junior Seau along with the players were going to pay the bill. I was blessed to see one of my Junior1969-2012sports heroes contributing back to society and to those less fortunate, and Seau even took a few photos with my friend Jonathan and I. In 1996 we were still learning about the Internet, and there was no Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, or Facebook so the photo we took had more sentimental value. We loved watching Junior Seau play football, and we loved what he was doing for our community. That day we saw first hand that Junior Seau really did love the people here in San Diego. Junior had the kindest heart.

A New Season:

The 2016 prep football season is just weeks away in San Diego, and the media has begun to start previewing some of the top players and teams from around the county. On the heals of successful seasons from both players, it made sense for SDFNL to feature a story on two of San Diego’s top recruits, Ezekiel “Zeke” Noa from Helix High School (6’1”, 225), and Sampson Niu from Madison High school (6’1”, 220). Both players are linebackers, both are of Samoan descent, both understand the impact on the game of football that Junior Seau had, and both share very similar qualities on and off the football field. And like Sydney Seau said about her dad having passion and love at all walks of life, my conversations with these two young men invoked these same qualities. There is one thing about the Samoan Community that I believe is undeniable: They are good people. Noa told me that Niu, “was one of the best linebackers in the World.” Niu spoke highly about Noa as well telling me, “Zeke’s a beast, I’m not gonna’ to take anything from his game. Zeke’s a beast!”

Ezekiel “Zeke” Noa – Helix High School

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During the 2015 season, I got the chance to watch Helix High School class of 2017 linebacker Zeke Noa play football in person. Montell Allen from MBA sports brought up Noa’s name earlier this summer as we brainstormed ideas for SDFNL Magazine’s August 2016 cover. We agreed that Noa was one of the top linebackers in the state, so I asked Allen to set me up with an interview. After messaging his father, I spoke with Noa on a Saturday afternoon and our conversation was very positive. A polite individual off the field, the young man is a battle-tested warrior on the field. Noa, who started playing football when he was six years old, attacks like a heat-seeking missile against the run, and he defends the pass extremely well. “My first year of playing, I wasn’t the best player. Growing up though, I was always playing with kids a grade higher than me, so I got better.” By the time Noa got to middle school, he knew his talent was real. “I want to say probably around 7th or 8th grade was the time I started to really love to play football, and I knew I could be really good at it.”

Noa attended Spring Valley Elementary and Spring Valley Middle School in San Diego. He shares a great relationship with his family, especially his father who was kind enough to communicate with me via text to set up the interview with his son. Noa’s father played linebacker at El Camino High School under legendary Head Coach Herb Meyer in the early 90’s winning two San Diego Section championships (1990,1991). “For me growing up playing football, my dad was and still is, one of the hardest ones on me. He would get mad at me for little things, and at the time I would realize and get mad as well for some reason. Now I realize why my Dad was so hard on me. He was just pushing me to be the best. In the beginning it was kind of rough because I didn’t realize that.” Noa says his dad always taught him about the “little things” like dropping a ball in practice. “My Dad has taught me how to be a better football player and a better man as well. Growing up in Samoan culture is pretty rough…pretty tough, but later on down the line, you realize why your parents are so hard on you growing up. They just want the best for you.”

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A very spiritual individual, Noa shares a special bond with his family. “My family is my motivation, I feel like football is my way of giving back to them for everything they have done for me…my family is my motivation for working hard.” Noa proudly expressed to me that his family is what keeps him going everyday. “We actually go to a Samoan Church in National City and we read the Samoan Bible. My Mom is from Samoa and my Dad is from Oceanside…I just grew up the Samoan way.” Noa also calls upon his spirituality to guide him as an individual. “In the offseason I go this program called Gridiron Ministries where we have a group of all ages and another group of just high-school students. The first 30 minutes we would have bible study, the next hour and a half we would work out, and it’s really helped me to become a better person.” Noa said he is grateful for the opportunity to play football at a high level. “Growing up and to this day, I am taught by my parents to stay humble and work hard, and I’m still going to carry that on. So right now I feel like on a spiritual level I want to stay humble and just keep on playing for the man above and for my family, just realizing what God has done for me and giving it all back to him.”

Noa is physically ready to at the Division-1 college level and his athleticism is off the charts, but you won’t see Noa playing any sport but football. “I don’t play any other sports. I can, but it’s kind of hard to because my parents want me to focus on football to avoid any injuries.” Laughing about it, Noa said, “It’s tough because there are some sports my Dad will let me play, but not my Mom, and there are some sports my Mom will let me play, but not my Dad, so I just don’t play at all.” Noa has been playing Varsity football since his arrival at Helix High School. “I started Varsity football my freshmen year, I got moved up like 3rd week…. I was just a special teams player.” Remembering his first game Noa told me, “It was cool, I liked the experience. The biggest difference was the game speed…it was a lot faster.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 3.53.10 PMSince his freshmen season, Noa has improved his game, but he knows there is still work to do. “I feel like I’m stronger, and my speed has increased but I still need to work on my speed…I’m not the fastest, so still working on that.” A phenomenal linebacker on the defensive side of the ball, the Highlanders coaching staff has also used Noa on the offensive side of the ball during his career at the school. “Playing offense actually helps me with my footwork on defense because I’ve realized that running routes are very important. Changing from one direction to another, I feel like I have improved on that since my Freshmen Year. There is always room to improve though.” Asked what the biggest difference was on the defensive side of the ball after playing offense, Noa said, “I can definitely relate to the routes better.”

Noa still has great respect for his former head coach at Helix, Troy Starr. “Coach Starr was a great coach! He had these ways of getting around kids and making us do our best, not for ourselves but for the team,” explained Noa. “He’s a great coach, he knows his football, and he always uses his coaching staff to get things done. Coach Starr, he’s a great coach.” Starr stepped down after the 2015 season, and the football program at Helix has hired coach Robbie Owens going forward. In his eight seasons as head coach at Grand Junction high school in Colorado, Owens led the team to a 47-38 record making the playoffs each year from 2009 to 2014. Owens, an offensive innovator, ran a high-powered attack at Grand Junction using the no-huddle power pistol formation. Albeit a tough transition, Noa says things are going well for the Highlanders so far with their new coach. “It started off kind of slow because we had to get used to the different style, but it’s great,” says Noa. “The offense is the same, but the big difference is with the terminology coach Owens uses. We’ve got used to it though, so it’s great! It’s a great offense that he’s installed for us.”

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Noa says he is blessed to be a part of it all at Helix High School. “I truly can’t imagine going to a different school. The kids there, the football team specifically, we connect. That’s what happens as a team, we connect and I’m not even talking on the football field. I’m talking off the field; we’re close already right now. I’ve realized that’s just Helix Football…the team that bonds together, they become closer, and they’re connected.” The connection was evident this past summer when Helix won four passing league tournaments amassing a 35-1 record in the process. “It was great, winning those 7 on 7 tournaments. That kind of says something, and we have to continue it during the season as well.” Noa told me that Helix is rebuilding their running attack though. “Right now I feel like we have to work on our run game and get it all cleaned up so when the season starts we’re ready. We’ve definitely showed people we can pass, but that run game is very important.” The Highlanders lost one of the best running backs in the history of San Diego football when Nate Stinson graduated in 2016. “We have to fill some big shoes with the loss of Nate…He was surprisingly strong at his size, and the speed he had was just phenomenal.”

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Training and great work ethic has made Noa a better football player. “I always go to AJ’s Gym…Alex Johnson. I go to his gym at six in the morning, but it’s not just me, it’s a handful of the Helix players. We workout there from 6 to 8, and after that we all go to Helix where we just work by ourselves and do routes.” Noa says his ability to get to the ball fast on defense is one of his biggest strengths. “On the field, I want to say my quickness is the biggest advantage I have. I’m always looking to improve footwork though, getting in and out of my breaks…” Inspired by one of the best linebackers ever in Junior Seau for sure, Noa also takes inspiration from another future NFL Hall of Fame Linebacker. “I liked watching Ray Lewis play, and all of his motivational speeches…I watched those too. I’ve noticed that he’s a very passionate guy, on and off the field. I want to carry that type of passion with me on the field.”

During the Week, Noa is very serious about his practice effort. “We’ve actually talked about it as a team. You practice how you play, so we were told to make every practice session like a game, practice hard, play hard, and get each other better prepared for when it’s game time.” Noa stays well hydrated during the week leading up to Friday nights. “I drink Coconut Water and carry around a gallon of water all week at school. On Thursdays I drink a gallon of Gatorade, and on Friday’s I drink pickle juice,” laughed Noa. “I realized it really helps me stay hydrated and prevent cramping.” On Fridays Noa is full of energy. “It’s kind of hard being patient because you’re still going to go to school, and you kind of get tired of walking around. After school we get the pregame meal, maybe take a nap, but the mindset is already there. As a team we gotta’ go…we gotta’ go. It’s game day!”

Recruiting Process

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 3.57.43 PMNoa has received ten scholarship offers including those from Washington St, Wisconsin, Colorado, Illinois, and Boise State. Scout.com recently reported that Noa is currently receiving looks from USC and UCLA. Noa’s recruitment process is a testament to modern technology and Social Networking sites. “It’s been good. It’s kind of hard for me to connect with the coaches because I don’t have a cell phone,” Noa said. “I actually use a tablet to connect with them and I have a Twitter account, so I connect with them that way as well. But it’s been good, I’ve been talking to some coaches, and some other media reporters, so it’s been fun.” A very intelligent person, Noa is on the right track academically as well. “Right now my GPA is at a 3.2, I’ve taken one SAT, and I’m scheduled to take another one before school starts up.” Not done grinding and working hard everyday, Noa is very active in the off-season. “I actually went to a lot of camps,” Noa laughed. “It was kind of tiring, but I tried to go to all of them and just have fun, and realize why I’m there. I really liked the Colorado Camp at Redlands University. The coaches there all wanted to meet my family who were with me. That was pretty cool, as well as Wazzu. Wazzu was at Oceanside, and those coaches wanted to meet my family, so that was pretty cool. I like that.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 4.00.35 PMNoa’s advice for Pop Warner kids who want to play high school football is to find that motivation to play. “Even when you don’t want to do it, you still gotta’ go out there and work hard because in the long run it will pay off. And you gotta’ have something to motivate yourself. For me, it’s my family.” Noa also shared some advice for some of the younger high-school players who are just beginning the recruiting process. “No matter what, try to get your name out there, and go to camps. I went to a lot of camps. I went to 7 on 7 in L.A…I played for team AIGA. Just try to get your name out there.” Although social networking has helped Noa during the recruiting process, he warns of the dangers. “The Internet can be a really good friend and a bad influence as well. The Internet can help you get your name out for sure, but it can also reflect a bad reputation upon yourself as well if you’re not careful.”

Looking ahead, Noa also has some professional and educational goals in mind. “Right now I like Sports Med. I took it last year and I’m taking it again this year as well, so that’s one of my options, as well as music…I want to do something with music as well.” Noa says he likes to listen to reggae music and Gospel Rap. “I actually love music, my family is very musical. We all started singing at a young age, and we all still sing now.” Noa says his family sometimes gets invited to conventions to sing. “We actually have a group called: System of the Browns. We go around and we sing our own songs,” said Noa. “System is actually an Acronym my sister, who is an artist, created. It means Saving Young Souls To Enrich Minds,” explained Noa. “My Mom taught us how to play music. She grew up in Samoa where her Dad…her parents were musicians and perfectionists of music so she kind of grew up like that, and she carried it on to us. I’m actually in the Helix Choir. I have a brother that’s going to be a freshman so he’ll be in the Choir with me as well. He also just got moved up to JV in football. Right now they have him at the slot and Sam backer.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 4.00.47 PMNoa told me his most memorable moment so far playing football was in the 2015 Open Division quarterfinals vs. Madison when he returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown in the against the Warhawks. “When I scored, my family had cards in the stands with my name spelled out Z-E-K-E-N-O-A on one side and #30 on the other side. I felt great, I loved that.” Noa also has had a 90-yard pick-six in the 2015 Open Division Semi-finals against Cathedral a week later. As we concluded our conversation, Noa made sure to send out some love to his guys at Helix. “Shoutout to all my teammates because we all work together, and we run together.” Noa also gave me some thoughts on his future. One of his closest cousins is Levine Toilolo who currently plays TE for the Atlanta Falcons. “I’m definitely one of the ones that wants to be playing in the Big Leagues…definitely. That’s my plan right now.”

Sampson Niu

As the 2015 season ended, champions were crowned, and San Diego County said goodbye to several of our top high school football prospects. The February signing date came and went while the recruiting process for players from class of 2017 and beyond started to heat up again. One local player from San Diego in particular picked up a large amount of offers in a short amount of time…enough offers to make the fire Emoji its own Twitter hash-tag trend in San Diego during the time. A fierce linebacker from Madison High School, his is name is Sampson Niu. And if there ever was a Junior Seau prodigy in the World, Sampson Niu could be that player. Niu hits hard like Seau did, punishing the offense, making them think twice about trying to go at him again. Niu’s quickness in pursuit of the ball carrier reminds you a lot of the former Chargers linebacker, and his footwork is absolutely phenomenal. With very long arms, Niu has the ability to tackle speedy backs before they can get downfield. Sampson Niu is just flat out stronger than anyone else he matches up with. His passion for the game is just like Seau’s, and if you watch Niu play this season, you may just see that famous Junior Seau fist-pump after a big tackle.

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Niu started playing football at a very young age. “I think I was in 2nd grade,” he said. “I played for AYS and the Clairemont Hawks.” John Paul Jones in the Serra Mesa area was the first elementary school Niu attended, but he changed schools just before middle school. “For 6th grade, I went to Sequoia Elementary and after that I went to iMiddle School. Both of those are in the Clairemont area.” During his 8th grade year, Niu won a National Championship with Mater Dei star running back, CJ Verdell. “Yes sir, yes sir…it was our 8th grade year, our All-Star team went out to Florida and won it all.” Just like Zeke Noa, Sampson Niu has a football connection to the city of Oceanside as well. His father Sai played with Seau on the Oceanside team that went to the CIF Championship game in 1986. Sai rushed for the Pirates only touchdown that night vs. Lincoln. “All my Dad’s brothers played football for Oceanside…Sam Niu and Mo Niu. My Dad knows a lot of those guys from Oceanside. He was really close to guys like Coach Pulu, the Paopaos…he was pretty close with Junior Seau.” Niu wears the #55 in honor of San Diego’s greatest linebacker ever. “Junior was a good dude. I love the Oceanside area. I go there every now and then.”

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I asked Niu to talk about the influence his Samoan culture has had on his life and also the game of football. “As soon as you are born, you are raised into it. My grandparents, they played a big part in my life growing up, teaching us about Samoan culture,” says Niu. “And you know…they keep getting into our head about who we are, who our people are, and what we’re known for, stuff like that you know.” As far as football goes, Niu says football has deep roots in his Samoan heritage as well. “You know it just kind of runs in my blood, especially the coaching. My Samoan coaches, taught me certain ways…how to act, how to think.” More evidence of Samoan influence can be seen by the art that is beginning to take shape on Niu’s body. Niu talked to me about the newest tattoo additions on his left arm. “You know it means three things, the three main things I need in my life: My Samoan Culture of course, my relationship with God, and my family. I carried it over to my chest and my back as well, and I’m hoping to get a full sleeve maybe.”

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Niu has Oceanside ties and his father played with Junior Seau, but it was Niu’s destiny to play high school football for Madison. “I spent a majority of my time in Clairemont, and I was always at Madison. I was always a water boy at Madison since like 2nd grade, so you know my brother went there, my cousin went there, and my uncle went there. It was only right that I went there.” For a moment when Niu was younger, there was the possibility he would play basketball instead of football. “At first my Dad kind of asked me, ‘hey you gonna’ try and play football’, and I was like, Nah man I’m a basketball player…what’s football? I play basketball. He said, ‘nah man just try it out you know’, so I did”. That first year I hated football. I didn’t get any playing time, and the kids were bigger than me, so I was miserable. I was playing against kids two years older than me. The next year though, I was a beast going against kids my age! Since then I just loved it, and I never stopped playing.”

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Although Niu is very athletic, he does not usually play offense. “I’ve always played defense, but I want to say my 6th grade year I played full back and the got the ball a couple of times,” laughed Niu. “Once I made that transition from youth to high school, my coaches really liked me at linebacker so I’ve always played linebacker since.” Niu did play other sports though. “I played baseball for like four or five years. I played basketball since I was young. I carried it up to my sophomore year in high school and I just stopped playing after that. I did Track.” Niu started playing Varsity Football during his freshmen season. “My first actual game on varsity was my freshmen year, but they had me playing kick-offs. When I actually started playing linebacker was during my sophomore year.” Niu was extremely excited to be on the “big stage”, and he remembers that first moment well. “Man, I remember my first play was against El Cap who went to the State Championship that year. At first I was a little nervous, and I had to get the butterflies out the way, but I loved it though!!”

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Playing for Madison head coach Rick Jackson is a big reason why Niu has been so successful at developing his game into the next level. “Ah man, playing for Coach Jackson is a blessing man. Not only him, but the whole coaching staff at Madison does a great job at preparing us before games, getting us right in the classroom, and getting us out there recruiting wise too. Coach B, coach Reyes, and my Dad. Those guys do a really good job challenging us and trying to get us out there. I really appreciate that.” Niu says his work during the week is all about preparation. “Film is very important, you have to know what your opponents are doing, know what formations they’re running, everything. The weight room plays a big part for me too.” On Friday’s, Niu is focused. “Friday is just a mental day throughout the whole day. Go to class, do my work, don’t get in trouble. During lunchtime, I’ll go eat my food, hydrate…hydrate some more, listen to my music. When 6th period comes, that’s when JV starts getting ready to take the field. I’ll watch a little bit of the JV game, go back to the locker room, get dressed and then it’s game time!” Niu also puts on the headphones before games. “I listen to all kinds of music, mostly rap, but before games I like to listen to Dom Kennedy…Dom Kennedy gets me ready man!”

In regards to the student culture at Madison High School, Niu said, “I’ve loved it man, since freshmen year, I can’t believe I’m a senior already! It goes by faster than everybody says it goes by man!” Academically, Niu works hard to maximize his GPA. “You know I’m not going to lie to you, my freshmen year I was a little off track. I probably could have gotten like 4.0, but instead I got a 3.6. You know I was a little distracted getting over the whole hype of high school, just trying to fit in and see where I’m at. My Sophomore year, was when I really you know…woke up and started to see the importance of a college education.” Academics are just as important to Niu as football. “You get that degree and it will take you a long way.”

Recruiting Process

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 Niu credits his father for helping him prepare for the recruiting process. “I started watching film with my Dad who is a linebacker coach. We’ve watched countless hours of film together…every night we would be puttin’ in of work and watching film, lifting, and it starts to build on you…you know it changes your perspective on a lot of things.” That hard work has definitely paid off for Niu. “I got noticed during my sophomore year and picked up my first offer. That was a blessing right there. It’s crazy to think that a kid, who had nothing, nobody knew me, but now I’m starting to receive offers. It was cool, but that didn’t stop me from working.” According to Matt Freeman from Irish Sports Daily, coach Jorge Reyes said the Madison coaching staff always expected that Niu would be a big time football player. “He has been playing for me since he has been in youth football at about fourth grade,” Reyes told Freeman. “He is a really respectful young man and a high character kid. He has been working hard this whole time. Sampson is just a humble guy who loves to be aggressive on the football field. His teammates, coaches and teachers love him.” Coach Reyes also told Freeman in their interview that Niu had a recruitment goal even before he got to high school. “Sampson was the water boy when we won State in 2012. At the time we had Pierre Cormier, who ended up signing with Arizona and Pierre had like 22 or 23 offers. Ever since then, Sampson’s goal has been to pass Pierre’s number of offers,” said Reyes. “I just kept putting in work and kept putting in work and a then a lot more opportunities opened up for me,” explained Niu.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 3.49.59 PMA lot more opportunities to say the least, as Niu jumped from having five offers on February 1st, to thirty offers by the end of the 2016 school year. “My recruiting process, I can just say I’m blessed. I’m very blessed to have had all the opportunities I’ve had. I’ve felt the same way about every single offer. It’s really humbling,” says Niu. “My hard work paid off, all those countless nights praying I’d get my first offer, and then I’d get four in one day. I’d get like eight in a week. It’s just been going crazy and it’s been overwhelming. A lot of people are starting to know who I am, so that’s just crazy!” Niu said it felt good because a lot of coaches called to check in and see how he was doing. And there was that one day last April while visiting USC when Niu received the offer that he never expected. “Maaaaannn,” said Niu gleaming with pride. “Getting that USC offer, you know I’m going to be honest, it was probably my most emotional offer. I mean it Junior’s school. I honestly didn’t think it was possible, but getting an offer from USC was crazy! Especially because coach Enfield pulled me aside after one of their practices.” Niu recalls Enfield giving him the good news, “What’s up Sampson, we want you to play for USC and we’ll give you a full ride scholarship offer.” Niu immediately called his parents. “I was in tears just crying, I called my mom, called my Dad to tell them the good news. It was so good that day.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 3.47.46 PMThings can change during the recruiting process, and Niu chose to make a verbal commitment to another Pac-12 team on June 22, 2015. “The recruiting process can be good but it can also be bad. I had to learn the hard way,” says Niu. “I learned that guys can only take up a few spots at a position, and USC had already offered two inside backers.” Niu took his commitment announcement to local Prep Football insider Paul Rudy at KUSI Sports, and they broadcasted Niu’s decision to play for the Oregon Ducks on live television. “I was ready for the process to be over and to make that commitment. It was pretty cool; I finally got to meet Paul Rudy. It was nice. He was pretty cool, I liked the whole experience.” Niu is not concerned about playing for a Pac-12 rival of USC. “I’m not worried at all with my decision to play at Oregon,” said Niu. “When I went up there, I loved it!” With a 3.7 GPA, Niu could play just about anywhere he wants to. “Grades are probably the biggest reason I received so many scholarship offers.” On the field, Niu believes his awareness and knowledge about football are very important. “You can always improve on something, so I’ll continue to improve on my strength, my speed, and also my knowledge for the game.”

Niu’s plans for college are still developing, but he has goals. “I’m still not sure yet, but I know I want to get my Masters. I’m trying to get my degree in at least three years…maybe in business, or engineering. You never know.” I asked Niu if he had any advice for Pop Warner kids and he said, “Of course…I would tell them to get good grades, listen to your parents, and don’t get distracted.” As for high school players new to the recruiting game, Niu says be patient. “Don’t stress on it. If it’s meant to be to get an offer, you will get one. But the opportunities you get are up to you, so don’t stop putting in the work, don’t hang your head, keep grinding, and I promise you it’s going to play off.” Niu credits his coaches with helping him the most. “I got out there because I have really good coaches, and a really good support team. Not everyone has high school coaches that will be like that, but if you ball, have good film, and your just an overall good person, good things will happen to you, God’s got you.” Niu also said players need to be careful what they post and like things on Social Networking sites. “Don’t be putting anything dumb out there, coaches are watching and everyone’s got your Twitter. If you mess up, delete your whole account and make another one.” Asked if he models his game after anybody in college or the NFL, Niu said, “Nah, I’m just trying to be like Sampson Niu man.”

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Niu’s most memorable moment came at the end of his sophomore season. “We lost the CIF Championship Game to St. Augustine (42-49),” recalls Niu. After the game, I just…it was probably the worst I’ve ever felt playing the game of football. You’re starting the whole season as a sophomore, we’re winning the game late, and then we come up short at the end. Losing it for my seniors, it made me feel bad. I couldn’t get them what they wanted, that CIF ring for them.” The loss motivates Niu to this day. “That memory fuels me to always outwork the other person, so it never happens again.” The Warhawks are returning several starters this season, and on paper they are built to win a championship. “A lot of leadership roles need to be filled,” said Niu. “We just to need to step up to the plate, that’s all it is. We have a lot of returners coming back, a lot of veterans. We just need to make sure the underclassmen are hungry as well.” Niu believes it is his responsibility to make sure the guys, as a team, can make it happen. “As Seniors, we need to be on them all the time making sure they’re doing what’s right for the team.” Niu said he and his Madison teammates are ready for some retribution after Madison’s loss to Helix in the playoffs last season. “Just know…It’s not going to happen again. I promise you that. It’s not going to happen again. Mistakes killed us that game, but we want to play Helix again. I believe if we play them again, the result will be good for us this time.”

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A fierce competitor on the field, Niu is very peaceful during his free time off the field. “I love hanging out with my family, love playing my Uke, I love eatin’, I’m just about positive vibes man…just hanging out with anyone whose giving me those good vibes.” I asked Niu if he was friends with anybody else around the San Diego football community. “Oh yea man, of course. A couple of guys SDFNL might know like Scotty Young, like Zeke. Zeke’s my boy! Blake…those guys from Helix. I know CJ and Kyle Moses and all those guys from Mater Dei…some guys from Lincoln, I know Daniel Anderson…I know everybody man! Terrell Burgess…That’s my boy. He’s a good dude. It’s always good to see San Diego kids get out there too, so that’s all that matters. It’s just good vibes man…good vibes.”

Like Zeke Noa, Sampson Niu values his spirituality and his family the most. “First and foremost, I have to give a shoutout to God for giving me the opportunity and giving me the life I’ve lived. I wouldn’t be, I couldn’t be anything without my parents, and I appreciate everything they do for me and just being there for me.” Niu also wanted to thank some of his trainers who helped him along the way. “I want to give a shout out to Lifelong Athletics, my man Sid, and my guy Joe. Rest In Peace to Joe. Those two guys did a great job especially Joe who helped us get our bodies right and push it. We did some crazy stuff man!” Asked about his future, Niu paused for a few seconds to contemplate it. “I’m not too sure, but what I can tell you is wherever I end up or however I end up, I’m just going to keep doing what I do.”

Madison vs. Helix

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 I won’t make a claim to which team is better Madison or Helix, but I can tell you without a doubt that the Warhawks and Highlanders are two of the best football programs in San Diego headed into the 2016 season. Helix, fresh off a 2015 San Diego Section Open Division Championship, returns several key starters in 2016. Madison is returning over 20 players from last season’s squad, most of who were starters when their season was ended during the playoffs by that same Helix team. Throughout their history, the two teams have faced each other only three times though, which is odd because Helix (1951) and Madison (1962) have fielded football programs at their respective schools for more than five decades. Last season’s Open Division quarterfinal playoff game was by far the biggest of those three matchups against one another. The game, played at Helix, saw the Highlanders take down the Warhawks by a score of 56-34. The only other times the two played were in 1989, when Helix beat Madison 18-10 and during the 1990 season, when Helix shutout the Warhawks 28-0. A scrimmage between the two teams is scheduled before the 2016 regular season starts, but we won’t get to see these two powerhouses square off during the regular season as they can only meet in the playoffs.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 4.23.00 PMHelix Football, under coach Troy Starr, has an overall record of 83-18-1 since 2008. After losing in the D2 championship twice in a row (2008 and 2009) and the D2 semifinals (2010) to Oceanside, the Highlanders finally beat the Pirates in 2011 to claim the D-2 championship, a season that also saw Helix win a State Championship finishing with a record of 13-1. After losing to Poway in the 2012 D2 semi-finals, and Mission Hills in the 2013 Open Division semi-finals, Helix fell to Oceanside again in the 2014 Open Division Championship before winning a close game with St. Augustine in the 2015 Open Division Championship game. Coach Starr announced his retirement in the midst of that Highlanders run and the team finished 2015 with an 11-2 record after a tough loss in the state semi-finals against Mission Viejo.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 3.37.49 PMIn 2012, Matt Calkins from the San Diego Union Tribune wrote that when Rick Jackson first started at Madison, there were eight coaches and just sixteen players on the team. While teaching Biology at Madison, Jackson worked his way into coaching because he wanted to get back into the sport he stopped playing after tearing his ACL as a junior at Mira Mesa High. He started as the Warhawks defensive coordinator under former head coach Steve Miner. Before Jackson was hired as the head coach at Madison, the football program had only made the semi-finals in any division just two times (1996, 2002). Jackson (108-34-1) has led Madison to seven CIF semi-final appearances since 2004 including two San Diego Section CIF championships. Sandwiched between semi-finals losses in 2007, 2009, and 2011, the Warhawks finished as the D4 runner-up in 2008, and the as the D4 champions in 2010, a season when Madison also finished as runner up in the State Championship. Madison won the D4 championship again in 2012 finishing with a 13 game win streak and this time a state championship. Coach Jackson also led Madison to a D1 runner-up finish in 2014 and to the Open Division playoffs in 2015.

You can see from the current resumes of both programs there is an abundance of big time playoff experience amongst these schools; here is a better look at how the two have finished in every season since 2008 and their overall records since then:

Helix Football – 2008-2015 (83-18-1)
11-2 (2015) Open Division Champions (lost in state semi-finals 28-32 Mission Viejo)
10-3 (2014) Lost to Oceanside in Open Division championship 13-20.
9-3 (2013) Lost to Mission Hills in Open Division semi-finals 21-24.
10-1 (2012) Lost to Poway in D2 semi-finals 7-21.
13-1 (2011) D-2 San Diego Champions. (Beat Loomis 35-25 in state championship)
11-1 (2010) Lost to Oceanside in D2 Semi-Finals 17-24.
9-5 (2009) Lost to Oceanside in D2 Championship 10-26
10-2-1 (2008) Lost to Oceanside in D2 Championship 19-23

Madison Football – 2008-2015 (84-16-1)
8-3 (2015) Lost in Open Division Quarterfinal to Helix 34-56
9-4 (2014) Lost in D1 Championship to St. Aug 42-49
9-2 (2013) Lost in D2 Quarterfinal to Mission Bay 18-21
14-1 (2012) D4 Champions (Beat Marin Catholic 38-4 in State Championship)
10-1-1 (2011) Lost to Valley Center in D4 Semi-Finals 21-23.
12-2 (2010) D4 Champs (lost to Escalon in D4 State Championship 14-30)
10-2 (2009) Lost to Valley Center in D4 Semifinals 6-16
12-1 (2008) Lost to Valley Center in D4 Championship 20-31

Overtime

Let’s clear the air up before I finish my story. There is no true rivalry between the Helix and Madison football programs just yet. This is a football story featuring two of San Diego’s premiere high school football players and the athletic programs they have been developed within. Helix and Madison remind us though that there are indeed several elite football programs in San Diego County. Oceanside is still as dominant as ever on the heels of winning another D1 Championship in 2015 along with the Open Division championship in 2014. The Pirates also won seven straight D2 championships from 2004 to 2011. St Augustine, who was the 2015 Open Division runner up, won the D1 championship in 2014 and also the D2 championship in 2013. Cathedral Catholic won five straight D3 championships between 2007-2011 before winning the D1 championship in 2013. After losing in the D2 finals in 2007 and in 2010, Mission Hills was the D1 runner up in 2012, and the Open Division champions in 2013. Christian high school won the 2013 and 2014 D3 championships, and they were D5 champions in 2011. Both Poway High (2007, 2011) and Eastlake (2009, 2011) have won two D1 championships since 2007.

This past spring, I watched a team win a San Diego Section D1 baseball championship from the losing team’s perspective, as a coach not a media member. I’ve learned how to separate my roles within coaching and media, but sometimes it’s inevitable that the two fields cross paths. You play to win, you coach to win, but most importantly being involved around education, you teach student athletes that they can find positivity even after a loss. Of course losing in a championship game hurts, but seeing another program in San Diego win a championship also feels good because there are a lot of other hard working athletic programs in this county who share the same blood, sweat, and tears of a season like we all do. Only one team per division can hang that banner in their school gym and outside of a meaningful education for student athletes, wining a CIF championship is the goal of every athletic program in San Diego. Only a few will ever achieve that goal, so it’s our responsibility as coaches, educators, parents, and even media members to support all those student athletes when they don’t win, and to help them enjoy and respect the process.

SDFNL wishes good luck and good health to each and every football program in San Diego as they begin a new chapter in their school’s history during the 2016 season.

You can follow Eric Williams @WBKsports

You can follow Sampson Niu @saampsonniu

You can follow Zeke Noa @zekenoa30

 

 

 

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Dezmon Patmon – The Next Level

Originally Published at SDFNLmagazine.com

Story by Eric Williams

Dez

 Intro

Just ten miles east of downtown San Diego is a small neighborhood called San Carlos. With a population of right around 15,000 people, most of the houses in San Carlos are single-story homes that were built in the late 1960s and early 1970s. San Carlos is bordered by Del Cerro and Navajo to the west, Fletcher Hills and El Cajon to the east, and Santee and La Mesa to the north and south. Within San Carlos, the San Diego Unified School District operates four elementary schools, three middle schools, and Patrick Henry High School, which serves approximately 2,500 students from the three neighboring communities of San Carlos, Allied Gardens, and Del Cerro. San Carlos is home to the family of 1998 Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL running back Ricky Williams who also played baseball and ran track at Patrick Henry from 1991-1995. Other Patrick Henry Alumni who went on to play professional sports include current Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Brandon Bogotay, current and retired MLB players Aaron Harang, Eric Karros, and Matt Nokes, along with four time All-CIF soccer star Sal Zizzo who currently plays for the New York Red Bulls in the MLS. San Carlos was also the home to the late Tom Murray, a role model, father figure, and coach for youth football and baseball around the San Carlos, Allied Gardens and Del Cerro areas.

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Overlooking the San Carlos community is the majestic Cowles Mountain. On a clear day from the top, you can see the ocean, into Mexico, and throughout the rest of San Diego County. Cowles Mountain features the Mission Trails Regional Park, which is the sixth-largest municipally owned park in the United States, and the largest in California. The most popular trail in the park is the Cowles Mountain Trail, which leads to a 360-degree panoramic view of San Diego County from the highest point in the city at 1,591 feet. While Cowles Mountain may be the highest point in San Diego City, there is a rising star from the community of San Carlos that towers over the community as well. With the help of my friend and colleague, fellow Patrick Henry alumni Christopher Smith from MBA Sports Recruiting, I pieced together a story with one of San Diego County’s top football recruits for the class of 2016. The kid is a consensus three-star prospect, scout.com ranks him the #79 overall receiver in the 2016 class (#12 WR in California), and he’s the #116 overall prospect in California, according to ESPN. While Calvin Johnson’s impending retirement from the NFL is looming, the Detroit Lions would be wise to send some scouts over to Patrick Henry High School and the San Carlos community because SDFNL Magazine’s feature athlete for the month of February is a lengthy WR who stands in at is 6’4”, 210 lbs. A signed commit to Washington State University, his name is Dezmon Patmon, and he was born and raised to be a star athlete at the next level.

Dezmon Patmon

DSC_1014Usually when I organize a player interview for SDFNL, I will text the athlete first, introduce myself, and give them an idea of how we write stories for SDFNL Magazine. I’ll set up a phone interview for a Sunday afternoon or a Monday night. This way I have an entire week to piece together and edit a story. When I first texted Dezmon Patmon, it was a Thursday and he texted me back saying, “Thank you! And yes definitely…I’m sure we could do Sunday.” Sunday afternoon came around, I texted the kid, and we set up a 1:30 interview time. About 15 minutes before we were supposed to talk, Patmon texted me again, “Hey Eric! Is it possible we can go for tomorrow? I’m sorry, my family just came over.” It was a true indication of the kind of character Patmon demonstrates (family first) so I agreed, and we set up the interview for Monday Night. I texted Patmon at about 5:30 Monday evening looking to set up our interview for about 6:30 or 7:00. He texted me back, “Can we do it right now? My family is coming over again soon.” I was on board with that because I could sense that the kid absolutely loves his family, so I called Patmon immediately. When he picked up the phone a very friendly voice greeted me, “Hey what’s up Eric?” We talked for about 45 minutes, but the conversation could have gone on for another hour. It is easy to see why the kid has been so successful in the recruiting game and in life. He’s smart, professional, respectful, and very humble. Dezmon Patmon is both a phenomenal athlete and also an outstanding individual.

Patmon attended Dailard Elementary School in San Carlos, San Diego located just a few minutes away from Patrick Henry High School. “I’ve been a San Diego kid for my entire life,” Patmon told SDFNL. He attended Magnolia Science Academy during his middle school years with a couple other local prep football stars here in San Diego. “It may seem nerdy, but honestly, we had so much talent at Magnolia: Elijah Preston, Khaleed Davis, and Mason Vinyard. We had a pretty good collection of great football players over there.” Patmon, like most prep football stars began playing football very early on. “I want to say I started playing organized football around seven years old or something like that. I skipped flag football because I always played a year ahead. When I was in Pop Warner, I would always see the Henry kids in their Henry football gear, so I always knew I wanted to play Patrick Henry football basically my entire life.” Because of his size, Patmon has always had the advantage athletically. When Patmon began high school, he was already close to the average height of an NFL wide receiver. “I think by my freshmen year, I was 6’3”, so I’ve usually been bigger than everybody.”

The MAN-Child

Talking with Christopher Smith gave me some great insight into Patmon and also the Patmon family. Chris and I talk often, but this time our talk was a very heartfelt conversation. Smith loves Dezmon and the Patmon family, and he loves the San Carlos community. “The thing I want to say most about Dezmon is he has always been humble, and I attribute that to his Mom and his Dad, Darryl Patmon and Amanda Patmon, who have really raised a fantastic child.” Smith described to me the moment he knew Patmon Dez10was going to do big things in football. “I came to realize the potential of Dezmon in his freshman year at Patrick Henry,” said Smith. “During a game against Scripps Ranch, Dez caught an eight yard pass over the middle and then carried nine defenders for another ten yards. It was at that moment that I dubbed him the MAN-Child!” Already 6’3″ tall and weighing in at close to 185 lbs., Patmon was bigger than everyone else. Smith said there is a pretty famous picture out there with Dezmon and Patrick Henry running back Zariyan Cook from when they played Pop Warner together in San Carlos. “Dezmon was 6’2” and Cook was 5’2” so after practice it looked like Dezmon was walking his son out to his car.” Patmon had yet to fully realize his true talent and that he had such a unique ability to play at the next level. “The kid was a fantastic athlete who came from a very athletic family,” says Smith. “He just needed time to develop into a great football player.”

DSC_1019Smith says that Patrick Henry head coach Mike Martinez took his time grooming Patmon. “Martinez didn’t want to bring him along too fast. He waited until the latter half of his sophomore year before bringing the wide receiver up to varsity. It was a smart decision because it would take about six more months before Dezmon was mature enough to handle the speed of the varsity game.” Now 6’4”, there was no doubting Patmon’s arrival moment came during the fourth game of his junior year. “It was against Monte Vista, and Monarchs head coach Ron Hamamoto did something very non-traditional asking his safety and corner to double team Patmon all game,” said Smith. “It didn’t work though, because Patmon caught three touchdowns, and the Patriots won the game.” Patmon said he has a lot of love for his high school football coach. “Coach Martinez, he’s a great guy. My Dad coached at Patrick Henry, so he’s been with coach Martinez for a while. I mean coach Martinez is one of those guys that you can talk to about anything…I can just joke around with him. He’s been a good mentor.” Patmon scored two touchdowns in his first game as a starter against Grossmont and then went on to score two touchdowns in each of his first six games starting at the Varsity level. “I mean I was nervous at first because people kept saying it would be way different than playing JV, but I mean it wasn’t that hard to get used to…I was just really tired, ha-ha.”

DezTeammatesSmith said that Dezmon is also very loyal to his friends and very loyal to his school. “He could have easily transferred to another big time powerhouse like Helix, but he decided to stay at Patrick Henry,” Smith told me. Patmon says he shares a friendship with several other players around San Diego County as well, including Jihad Woods and Mason Vinyard from the 2015 CIF Open Division Champion Helix Highlanders. “Mason is like my other brother,” said Patmon. “We are similar size and kind of look alike, so people often confuse us for brothers. Elijah Preston has been my best friend since middle school. Khaleed Davis has been my best friend since middle school.” Patmon didn’t win as many games as he could have had he played at a Helix, Christian, St. Augustine, or another big time football academy, but that didn’t change his experience at Patrick Henry. “Being that both of his parents went to Patrick Henry, his uncle went to Patrick Henry, and he grew up in the San Carlos community, Dezmon stayed loyal to his school, his friends, and his community,” said Smith. Patmon received a lot of attention during his time at Patrick Henry, and the experience was good. “I enjoyed being a star athlete here at Patrick Henry. You are kind of the center of attention. I had a lot of fun winning homecoming king. I’ve really enjoyed my time at Patrick Henry.”

Hard Work and Commitment

Going into about April before his senior year, speed was a concern for Patmon, so he took initiative and started to train with former NFL RB/WR Darran Hall. Patmon worked meticulously hard with Hall doing strength training and conditioning. He lowered his overall 40-yard dash time from a 5.3 to a 4.6 in a matter of months. Patmon also trained hard during the offseason. “I did a little bit of cross-fit during the offseason…I would go there before school at five in the morning. I’ve also been talking to my Washington State coach, and he’s been telling me just to go out and run whenever I can. I have a trail right next to my house, so every other day I’ll go out for a run. Coach Martinez was also kind enough to let me borrow the Jugs Machine so every day that I can, I just work on catching the ball at 40-50 MPH.” Patmon is a fierce competitor and he attributes his stellar gameplay to his composure on the football field. “Honestly I’ve tried to play games all serious and tried to go out there all focused and one-hundred percent set on winning the game, but I feel like I perform my best when I’m laid back and just having fun and joking around. I like to have fun during pre-game and stuff like that…I’m more of a laid back player,” says Patmon. “In the locker room we had the stereo system, so my friend Zariyan Cook would be playing all the new music…Future, Chance the Rapper, always some good hip-hop songs. We’d get pretty Turnt before games.”

Patmon is a rare athlete who cares about his community off the field as well. He routinely goes into his neighborhood to work with younger athletes helping them to learn wide receiver techniques. “Dez is fiercely loyal to the Patriot football program, and the San Carlos community,” says Smith. Looking back on his youth, Patmon has some sound DSC_3373advice for younger kids. “When I was in elementary school, I was always thinking that I had all this time before I got to high school, but it came and went by fast. Those little guys in Pop Warner may not know right now exactly how fast that time goes by, so I tell them to just work hard everyday.” Patmon is one of three siblings in the home, and he is the oldest of the three Patmon children. His younger sister runs track and is a cheerleader for Patrick Henry while his youngest sister is a softball star. “My family has had the biggest influence on my football career. I come from a long line of football players. My grandpa played college football, my uncle went to Patrick Henry, played college football for Michigan, and then went on to play for the New York Giants in the early 2000’s,” says Patmon. “Athleticism is something that the Patmons care a lot about,” explains Smith. “It’s a part of their life, and a part of their lifestyle. Being that Dezmon was the first male born child/grandchild, the entire Patmon family including his grandfather Pap Pap, who keeps statistics for Patrick Henry football, is invested in Dezmon’s future.”

Smith affirms that Patmon’s success on the football field is due to his family’s deep roots to the game of football. “Patmon’s uncle Dwayne was a football player at Patrick Henry, Michigan, and then for the New York Giants. After his football career, Dwayne became an actor and appeared in the 2004 movie Friday Night Lights as a member of the Carter team and also appeared in the 2005 sports film Two for the Money.” Via Brandon Stone from KUSI Sports in San Diego Patmon explained, “My family grew up with Ricky Williams. He was in my family’s house probably every day with my uncles and my Dad. They live like three minutes away, and he loved my grandmother’s pies. My uncle actually went to college with him at Texas.” Buffalo Bills NFL Hall of Famer Andre Reed is a friend of the family, and Vincent Jackson took to Twitter via video message to wish Patmon good luck at the beginning of his senior season. More recently on Sundays, Dezmon has been working out with Michigan State starting quarterback Connor Cook and also Ohio St. quarterback Cardele Jones. “They go down to Mission Bay together to workout and run routes to help prepare Dezmon for college,” said Smith. Patmon is also a student of the game, and that should worry defenders in the Pac-12. “I like to model my game after guys like AJ Green and Calvin Johnson,” says Patmon.

Pure Athleticism

PureAthleteBelieve it or not, Patmon is probably a better baseball player than he is a football player. His dad played at Mesa Community College, and Dez followed in his footsteps playing little league baseball in San Carlos. “Everybody would tell me that my Dad was a better athlete than my uncles, but he was more of a baseball guy so he didn’t really take football as serious as my uncles.” Patmon probably throws in the high 80’s to low 90’s as pitcher. “I was all right at baseball…I would make All-Stars every year. I think if I would have focused on baseball I would have been pretty good, but I felt like football was more of my calling.” Patmon has played other positions on the football field as well. “It’s funny because I was recruited as a receiver, but up until freshmen year I could not catch a football. I played running back my entire Pop Warner career, and I also played defensive end.” That versatility helped Patmon lead Patrick Henry to their first playoff win in seven years this past season when he picked off a school record four passes versus La Jolla in the San Diego Section CIF Playoffs. “I think he’ll go far because of his skillset and his attitude,” says Smith. “The kid is talented beyond all measure.”

DezDunkWashington State will be excited to see their new recruit develop because along with being tall, Patmon’s athleticism is off the charts. Growing up, I think I played a sport every season. I want to say I started playing baseball when I was 4 or 5, but I also competed in Track and Field, Bowling, Soccer, Basketball…I played some Tennis…everything.” A quick Internet search confirms that Patmon can dunk a basketball. At Patrick Henry, they didn’t have a great weight-training program, so Smith fully expects Patmon to put on another 15-20 pounds in college and become an absolute monster and a terror to Pac-12 defenses. Patmon’s size and physical abilities have definitely garnered national attention in the recruiting process. “I would probably say my best skill on the field is being a “Red-Zone” threat,” said Patmon. “As a freshmen, I was All-State in the High Jump where I set a San Diego Section CIF record, so being tall and having a tremendous leaping ability is a great attribute I possess.” And Patmon knows there is still work to be done. “There is always room for improvement in every category, but I would definitely like to work on my release moves because I mean playing against Pac-12 teams like Oregon will definitely be a lot different than playing teams at the high school level. I need to be fundamentally sound, catching the ball at its’ highest point, flawless with my over the shoulder tracking the ball in the air…all the little things.”

Recruitment

DezScorePatmon did not get as much media coverage as some of the big time athletes that go to larger schools, but nonetheless he is arguably the best WR in all of San Diego County. Last year at the Nike Sparq Combine, Patmon scored a 101.28, which at the time was the 4th best score in California. Immediately the attention began to grow, and scouts started comparing Patmon to Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green, Josh Gordon and Calvin Johnson. “I received my first offer around December or January of my Junior Year. Since then, it’s just been like mail everyday…like legitimately stacks of mail everyday,” explains Patmon. “Phone calls every night from Colorado, Colorado State, Washington State. Berkeley was recruiting me pretty hard at one point. UNLV was calling me a bunch. It’s funny because even today Nebraska called me and was asking me if I wanted to flip my commitment from Washington State, but they definitely don’t have the passing attack that Washington State has. If I had the academics, I definitely would have considered CAL more though.” Like his uncle, Dezmon really wanted to play for the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. “Michigan was actually the school I wanted to go to since I could remember. I went to some camps, and my uncle tried to connect me with some of the coaches. I was on their receiver board, but they already had like 3-4 wide-receiver commits.”

DABDuring high school, Patmon received nine Division-1 scholarship offers including four from Pac-12 schools. He has NFL size with enormously large hands, and his leaping ability will help any quarterback. “All you have to do is toss the ball up and this kid is going to go get it,” says Smith. Excited for an opportunity to immediately compete for snaps as an X-receiver in the WSU “Air Raid” attack, Patmon made a verbal commitment to Washington State in December of 2015 via a local TV Announcement on KUSI sports San Diego. “Players dream of being able to commit live on TV with the hat and everything. I had been telling everyone since my freshmen year that I wanted to commit on TV, so I mean it was kind of fun turning your dreams into reality.” At the time of our interview, Patmon was preparing to sign his letter of intent on February 3rd at the San Diego Hall of Champions. “I’m headed down in the morning with Kameron Cline at about 7:30, and after that I’ll be getting a workout in. It kind of sucks though because orientation for me at Washington State would be on June 20th, but graduation at Patrick Henry is on June 21. I wanted to be in Washington for that.” I am sure the Cougars staff will understand though because the player they recruited will dedicate his life to the program at Washington State. “The key to my recruiting success was just working hard. I mean on and off the field. At the end of the day, you have to realize that there are thousands and thousands of kids grinding everyday for offers. You can’t get complacent and you can’t forget why you are working hard,” said Patmon.

The Future

Often for student athletes, the challenges they face on the field do not compare to the challenges they may face in life or within academics. This was the case for Patmon as he almost lost his chance to play football at the next level. “My biggest challenge during my high school football career wasn’t football related. It was actually classroom related. I was ineligible to play going into my junior year, so I had to take Summer School to become eligible,” explained Patmon. “My biggest challenge was keeping my mind focused in the classroom. Once I was in Summer school, I felt it…I mean it was like I almost didn’t get a chance to play. It was a reality check. It did not matter how good of an athlete I was, I had to stay on top of it in the classroom.” With all the attention Patmon received, his parents did a remarkable job of keeping Dezmon grounded and focused. Patmon knows the value of family and friends, and he also knows how important his community is. “If I thanked everybody who helped me get to the point I’m at now, we’d be on the phone for another 30 minutes,” Patmon told me. “But I want to thank my Summer School teacher Mrs. Sepulveda for helping me during that time before my Junior Year. I would not have been able to continue my football career without her help.”

FutureIn the Patmon family, athletics are everything but so too are academics and character. Patmon has a plan for his educational path and his future after football. “Right now, I have two ideas. I want to study either Kinesiology or Communication,” said Patmon. “You don’t know how many times I’ve been told that I would be great at working in the media. It’s every players dream to play in the NFL, but if I don’t make it I think I’d like to be a broadcaster or maybe even a firefighter.” I asked Patmon to give me his advice for the younger generation of high school football recruits and he said, “Stay focused in the classroom because there’s not a day that goes by when there is someone who is not working to take the scholarship that you earned away. Always put in one-hundred percent on and off the field, do extra reps, run, stay in shape, and do everything you can possibly do, to be the best athlete you can be.” Christopher Smith finished our conversation by giving Patmon the highest of praises. “The MAN-Child is the pride and joy of the San Carlos community. He is in my opinion the #1 receiver in all of San Diego County.”

I want to thank Christopher Smith for being a contributing writer to this story. I would also like to thank Smith for introducing me to one of San Diego’s best high school football players from the class 2016. In closing, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes about Dezmon Patmon from my conversation with Smith: “Dez has that attitude where he never gives up; he never stops working, and never takes NO for an answer. Tell him he’s can’t to do something, and Dez will work hard to prove you wrong.”

You can follow Dezmon Patmon @dadpat7

You can follow Christopher Smith @mbasports2

You can follow Eric Williams @WBKsports

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2015 SDFNL All-Star Showcase Game

Originally Published at SDFNLmagazine.com

Story by Eric Williams

SDFNLshowcasecover

2012 SDFNL Showcase GameJanuary 12, 2013 Helix High School

Final Score: 24-0 American team (Red)
RED MVP – Joshiah Potua, La Jolla Country Day
BLUE MVP – Luke Isaac Parra, Bonita Vista (16 Tackles)

2013 SDNL Showcase GameDecember 28, 2013 Helix High School

Final Score: 33-27 American Team (Blue)
BLUE MVP – John Todd III, Valhalla (8-217 4TDs *TD Catch with 7 sec. left)
RED MVP – Isiah Hennie, San Marcos (6-88 1 TD with 230 Return yards)

2014 SDFNL Showcase GameDecember 29, 2014 Helix High School

Final Score: 43-42 (Blue Stars)
RED MVP – Kameron Calhoun, Rancho Bernardo (3 INTs)
BLUE MVP – Collin Rugg, La Jolla (24-37 289 yds. passing and 2 TDS)

Purpose and Organization

On December 26, 2015 San Diego Friday Night Lights held their 4th annual All-Star Showcase football game sponsored this year by Jersey Mike’s Subs. Another chance for players who may not have received a scholarship offer during their high school football career to get looked at, the game provides players a venue to showcase their talents in front of scouts from not just D-1 schools but from several D-2 and NAIA colleges. SDFNL co-founders Montell Allen and Ruben Peña are the organizers of the game and their goal is to provide as many San Diego players as possible with the opportunity to make it at the next level. Between 30 and 50 scouts collectively (not including Junior Colleges), whether at the game or streaming on-line, were tuned into the showcase game this year. In 2014, SDFNL assisted 84 players with some sort of college contact. The most recent alumni who have received scholarship offers after playing in the SDFNL All-Star game are Brandon Brooks (Patrick Henry) Dixie St., Cruz Samaniego (Patrick Henry) Hastings College, Tyler Nix (San Marcos) Minot St., Will Freed (San Marcos) Ohio Northern, Courtney “Co-Co” Richardson (Cathedral Catholic) Wayne St., and Nate Johnson (Vista) Dixie St.

Rosters were selected via a draft process that paired players from the same schools on different teams. Invites were given to players as early as mid October during the regular season. Focus was placed on seniors who have talent, but were still looking for opportunities to attend college on a free scholarship and continue on with their football careers. Via Tommy Morris from San Diego Prep Insiders, SDFNL co-founder Montell Allen explained, “There aren’t enough Division 1 scholarships and not enough schools out there, but there are those Division 2 schools and NAIA schools that can really give guys the opportunity to get their education which is the most important thing, but it also gives them the opportunity to play four more years of football.” This year with the help of Sideline Studios, SDFNL created a mobile device application for the game that provided game day information, team rosters, player Hudl reels, past showcase game history, and a live stream link to the 2015 game. A combine was held at Lifetime Athletics in Romano Gym on Sunday December 20, and practices were held at Francis Parker High School on December 21, 22, and 23 with a final walk through at Granite Hills High School on Christmas Eve. Players went hard at each other during practices preparing for game day as if it were a normal week of their high school’s regular season. The experience gave players a chance to network with other players from across San Diego preparing them for what college life will be like when they have to communicate with other players and coaches they may have never met before. Each player was provided with practice and in-game nourishment sponsored by Gatorade and players also received a jersey to keep, along with a new backpack sponsored by RG Sports.

Groupshot

Gameday

After a day off to enjoy the Christmas Holiday, coaches, players, and SDFNL showcase organizers convened in Valley Stadium at Granite Hills High School for the 1:00 PM game. The weather was clear and absolutely beautiful albeit very cold, and slowly but surely a large crowd gathered on both sides of the stands to root on prep football players from all over San Diego. An abundance of media outlets covered the game including Brandon Stone from KUSI, Adam Paul from East County Sports, Don De Mars Photography and Christopher Smith from 619 sports. Like at most high school football games, the smell of barbecue and fresh kettle corn lingered through the air, fans cheered loudly from the stands, and Twitter junkies scurried around the field filming every down with hopes of capturing big plays that could help promote showcase players to the recruiting world. Staff from San Diego State University provided game day athletic trainers. Led by former NFL players Akili Smith from El Camino High School (Red Squad) and Jason Carter from La Jolla High (Blue Squad), the 2015 SDFNL All-Star Showcase Game was a complete success and an overall fun time for players, coaches, and fans of high school football in San Diego.

Coaches

A 1st quarter dominated by defense included a big hit by Blue Squad’s Andrew Heffler (St. Augustine) that caused an early Red Squad Fumble and also a 12 yard sack by Red Squad’s Carter Couch (Mt. Carmel). After no scoring from both teams in quarter one, Red Squad got on the board early in the 2nd quarter with a nice pass from Casey Brown (La Jolla) on a Slant Route to Khaleed Davis (Grossmont) for a 65-yard TD reception giving Red the 7-0 lead. Blue Squad answered back just two minutes later with a 17 yard TD pass rom Philip Naseh (Valhalla) to Rashid Shaheed (Mt. Carmel) tying the game at 7-7. After a Red Squad punt gave the ball back to Blue Squad, they drove the ball down inside the five yard line where Jaylen Griffin (Pt. Loma) took in the short touchdown run giving Blue a 14-7 lead midway through the 2nd quarter. Following some back and forth by both teams with no scoring, Jayden Emberton-Gaines (Mater Dei) intercepted Red Squad at the 50-yard line and ran it back inside the Red five-yard line. Moments later, Thomas Youmog (Granite Hills) ran in a short touchdown giving Blue Squad the lead 21-7 with under three minutes to go in the Half, and the score would remain unchanged at the break.

The start of the 2nd Half saw Blue Squad QB Philip Naseh throw a great 45 yard strike to Taj Broomfield (West Hills) putting them deep in Blue territory, but they could not capitalize on it coming away with no points. After a 10 yard reverse to Khaleed Davis and a sneaky draw play run for 10 yards by Zariyan Cook (Patrick Henry), Casey Brown threw a beautiful 35 yard TD pass to 6’4” 185 lb. WR Kreig Corkhill (Patrick Henry) to bring Red Squad back in the game at 21-14 early 3rd quarter. Great defense by Red forced Blue Squad to punt the ball away again, and then Casey Brown drove Red Squad down the field with a 15 yard screen pass to Moli Faalogo (Bonita Vista), and a 17 yard connection with Nicholas Sexton (Christian) followed by three more completions to Sexton including a 3 yard TD pass. It was Brown’s third touchdown pass of the game tying the game at 21-21 early in the fourth quarter. It appeared that Red Squad was poised to take the lead when William Jones (Mt. Carmel) picked off Blue Squad QB Spencer Moyer (West Hills) at midfield and returned it to the Blue 20 yard line late 3rd quarter, but an INT by Calvin Washington (Escondido) in the End Zone gave the ball back to Blue Squad.

Moments later, Philip Naseh hit Rashid Shaheed with the SDFNL/Jersey Mike’s Subs “Play of the Game”, an 86 yard TD pass that gave Blue Squad a 28-21 lead midway through the 4th. Hunter Allen (Cathedral Catholic), son of former Philadelphia Eagles star Eric Allen, returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards, but back to back sacks by Kameron Cline (Patrick Henry) and Alexis Quinones (San Ysidro) pushed Red Squad back 20 yards forcing Blue to give the ball up on downs two plays later. On the first play of Blue Squad’s next possession, Jaylen Griffin made a crafty move sprinting down the sidelines for 45 yards inside the Red 10 yard, and that helped set up a short touchdown run by Taj Broomfield giving Blue a 35-21 lead with just 7 minutes left in the game. Red Squad continued to battle though with a nice 25 yard run late in the game by Zariayn Cook, but a sack by Duran Miller (Mt. Miguel) ended their drive. Blue Squad then piled on with a short screen pass from Spencer Moyer to Rashid Shaheed who took it 43 yards to the house giving Blue the lead for good at 42-21. The win puts Blue Squad up 3-1 overall in the SDFNL Showcase series.

MVPs

Post-Game

As the final whistle blew, players from both teams gathered around at midfield and congratulated each other with the kind of sportsmanship that showed the maturity and class of high school football players throughout San Diego. This was a game about bringing together high school football players from all over the county as one group and providing them with another chance to strap on a helmet and pads one last time. Members from both teams posed for photos with each other as SDFNL founders Ruben Peña and Montell Allen brought both Red and Blue squads together with their coaches, teammates, families, and friends for some encouragement and the game MVP announcements. In front of hundreds of spectators, cameras, video recorders, and media representation, Rashid Shaheed was awarded the honors from the winning team with 4 receptions, 163 yards receiving, and 3 TDs. Nick Sexton who had 8 receptions for 77 yards and 1 TD took home the MVP honors for the Red Squad. Philip Naseh was 9-17 with 116 yards passing and 2 TDs and Spencer Moyer threw for 82 yards and 1 TD. Several players took to Twitter after the game to thank Ruben, Montell, Christopher Smith, and SDFNL Magazine for organizing the game. Jersey Mike’s Subs, Don De Mars, Christopher Smith (MBAsports2), and WBKsports provided videos and photos that were made immediately available to parents, coaches, scouts, and players over the Internet. After another successful year, the SDFNL showcase again helped several players pick up scholarship offers.

The following players have received offers, and there should be more to come as we head to the February 2016 national signing day:

Mike Jones SS/FS/CB (Mt. Miguel) – Dixie St. and Hastings College

Kameron Cline DE (Patrick Henry) – Univ. of South Dakota

Rashid Shaheed WR (Mt. Carmel) – Univ. of South Dakota and Weber St.

Alex Lillard DB/LB (Grossmont) – Dixie St.

Kahleed Davis WR/DB (Grossmont) – Dixie St.

Duran Miller DE/LB (Mt. Miguel) – Hastings College

Dylan Palmer OL (San Marcos) – Hastings College

Matt Hanau OL/DL (Hilltop) – Hastings College

Isaiah Chavez DB (Chula Vista) – Hastings College

Jacques Morgan OL/LS (Lincoln) – Cheyney Univ.

Mitchell Lindgren LB (Rancho Bernardo) – Minot St.

Alexis Quinones  DL (San Ysidro) – Minot St.

Gregg Gonzales LB (Coronado) – Hastings College

Nicholas Sexton WR (Christian) – Dixie St.

Nacion Reese LB  (San Marcos) – Minot St.

Joseph Tauanuu DT/G (Helix) – Humboldt St.

Taj Broomfiled CB, SB, WR (West Hills) – Dixie St.

Zariyan Cook RB (Patrick Henry ) – Eastern Washington

Nathaniel Sweat (Eastlake HS) – Eastern New Mexico

Gary Cannon (Olympian) – Midland University

In closing, SDFNL would like to thank their supporters for helping to promote the 2015 All-Star Showcase game: Jersey Mike’s Subs, San Diego Prep Insiders, KUSI, Sideline Studios, Bocarioink.com, Don De Mars Photography, MBA Sports Recruiting, Clinch Gear, EliteTek, AST Training, Lifelong Athletics, Coca Cola, Powerade, Gatorade, and Scorestream. Until next season, KEEP GRINDING…Who’s Next?

Follow Montell Allen @MBAsports1

Follow Ruben Peña @SDFNLMagazine

Follow Christopher Smith @mbasports2

Follow Eric Williams @WBKsports

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Troy Warner “The Final Chapter”

Originally Published at SDFNL Magazine

Story by Eric Williams

TroyWarner

Photo by Christopher Smith (mbasports2)

Intro- The Tommy G Experience

This past May, a guy came to my school site as a substitute teacher in the Special Needs class I work in. He introduced himself as Tommy and told me he was from Oceanside. Being the huge sports fan that I am, I immediately struck up a conversation about Oceanside High School football. I told him I grew up in San Marcos watching and rooting for both the Grizzlies and Knights, so the two of us kind of looked at each other ready to battle for a second. But then for the next thirty minutes, we discussed the history of prep football in San Diego County. The “G” in Tommy’s name stands for Gutierrez, but after our first talk I knew right away the “G” should stand for “Guru” because he has stories to tell for days. In fact when it comes to knowledge about prep football history, the “G” in Tommy’s last name should stand for “Genius” because the man has boundless intellect for the game of football both in current times and from decades past.

After listening to Tommy  talk about the storied pasts of both the El Camino and Oceanside football programs, I instinctively brought up one of Oceanside’s newest county rivals, the Mission Hills Grizzlies. He kind of snickered at me, and I said something like, “The Grizzlies play you guys at home this season bro. You know Mission Hills has been playing you guys well at home! They could get you this season.” Tommy looked back at me with a glare that could have come straight from recently retired coach John Carroll himself, and then he began reminding me of the great accomplishments the Pirates football program obtained under the legendary coach: 250 wins, 13 Section Championships, 21 straight appearances in the CIF section semi-finals, and two state bowl titles. He reminded me that the Pirates were 14-1 last season dominating the competition in San Diego leading up to yet another State Bowl appearance before coach Carroll retired. Tommy G literally bleeds green and as a sports fan I can appreciate that a lot.

After the two of us talked a little smack to each other, Tommy said he had also been writing for an on-line prep football magazine called San Diego Friday Night Lights. I told him that I always wanted to get into sports media and journalism. I was ready to make a career change, and Tommy could sense that so he asked me to call a dude by the name of Ruben Peña who puts together SDFNL. “You need to e-mail him right away man. He is looking for writers like you who have a passion for the game,” Tommy said. I told him I would check the web site out and see what it was all about. After a week or so, Tommy came back to my work again and asked me. “Did you e-mail Ruben? He’s looking for writers.” I said, “No, but I looked at the web-site and thought it was great.” Tommy then proceeded to call Peña on the spot and tell him he had a guy who would write for him. When they hung up, Tommy handed me a paper with Peña’s cell phone number and told me to call him as soon as possible.

Welcome to SDFNL

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 7.41.07 PMAfter the first phone call I made to Ruben Peña at SDFNL, I was put to work. My first assignment was to write a short, maybe 100-200 word blurb about any high school football prospect in San Diego. I chose to write about San Diego County’s #1 recruit, Troy Warner from Mission Hills because he was a player I was familiar with having seen the Grizzlies play several times before. I followed that short Warner write-up with a 100-200 word blurb on another great player from Mission Hills, LB/TE Justus Te’I. Ruben liked my work so I was asked to interview the highly recruited 6’6” 260 lb. DE/TE Jake Burton from Granite Hills. SDFNL was looking to publish a feature article on him for their July edition of the magazine, so I jumped on board right away and got to work. The interview went well mostly because Burton is a very intelligent kid who took the time to help me put together a story about him, but also because I love to write about sports. After the Burton article was published, I had officially become part of the prep high school football media in San Diego County, and I’ve been having the time of my life ever since.

Over the next few months, SDFNL asked me to interview and write feature articles with Terrell Burgess (San Marcos), Steffon McKnight (Mira Mesa), and Derrick Clark (Mission Bay) while I chose to interview and write about Nate Stinson (Helix) for the October edition of SDFNL. Each player has their own unique story, and each is ranked in the top ten of all prep football recruits within San Diego County for the class of 2016. To finish the football season in style, I asked Ruben and SDFNL co-founder Montell Allen if I could write a feature article on Troy Warner for our January edition. They were cool with that idea so this past December I contacted the very talented and well-spoken Warner, and we talked for about 30 minutes via phone call. I felt it was a great opportunity to tap into the mind of the young man who knows the recruiting game as well as anyone, and I felt it was perfect timing because Warner was leaving for BYU this January. It was great opportunity to say thank you to Troy Warner on behalf of the San Marcos community and also San Diego as a whole for continuing to keep San Diego football in the national spotlight.

The following is my interview with and story on San Diego County’s most highly touted high school football player from the class of 2016:

San Diego County’s #1 Prep Football Recruit

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 5.50.52 PMTroy Warner has been featured in pretty much every prep football media outlet in San Diego over the past three seasons, and the attention is well deserved. As a junior, he was the only underclassman on the 2014 All-CIF San Diego Section First Team and as a sophomore, Warner helped Mission Hills win the 2013 CIF San Diego Section Open Division Championship. In nine games this season, Warner had six touchdowns and five interceptions including a pick-six in week seven. When I texted him asking for an interview, Warner got back to me immediately and we set up a time to talk on the weekend. “Sounds good!” Warner texted. “And no problem, Thanks for supporting us!!” The overall interview process was smooth just like Warner’s game is on the field. I told him at the beginning of the interview we wanted to make sure to recognize his accomplishments before he heads out to BYU and he said, “Cool…cool…Sounds good!”

Like most top recruits, Troy Warner started playing organized football when he was 6 or 7. “I’ve been at it for awhile now. I’ve always known since I was young that I wanted to pursue football, so when the time came to play high school football, I was ready to work hard at it.” Warner played both sides of the ball while at Mission Hills, and he has been doing so since he was a kid. “In Pop Warner, I played defensive end, a little bit of running back, corner, and at wide-receiver.” Warner started playing basketball around the same time as he started playing football. “I was pretty good at basketball too. I played both my freshmen and sophomore years, but after that I decided that I wanted to concentrate just on football.” Warner also participated in track making it to CIF Finals in the Long Jump, his best jump right at 22 feet. His athletic ability is freakish, and Warner still has not reached his uppermost potential.

Being a talented football player runs in the family for the Warner’s as Troy’s brother Fred held over ten Divsion-1 scholarship offers during his football career at Mission Hills and was named the All-San Diego Section Defensive Player of the year in 2013. Named to the Cal-Hi Sports All-State First team during that same season, Fred like Troy was a four-star prospect and recruited by the likes of Arizona, Cal Nebraska, USC, Utah, and Washington. Ultimately deciding to continue his playing days at BYU, Fred is having success and Troy says he has always taken notice. “When I was younger I would follow in my brother’s footsteps. He played football, so I played football because I really wanted to be like him. Seeing him do well in high school made me want to do even better. It was always a competitive time with me and him.” Warner’s father Fred Sr. also played football as a WR/DB during the early 90’s. “My dad actually played for Oceanside when he was in high school; he always gives me words of wisdom, and keeps me on track.”

WarnerBrosWarner credits his mom Laura as being the key to his recruiting success. “My mom has been with me throughout the whole process, she’s done everything for me…she’s taken me to all my training events, and you know she’s been a real trooper. She’s also been at every game and just making sure I’m on top of all my grades in school and giving 100 percent on the field and in practice. She’s really been a big factor in my success.” Warner has roots in Oceanside, but he grew up in San Marcos. “Right after I was born, my Dad was stationed in the military in North Carolina. Shortly after, we moved into the Oceanside area and spent a little bit of time over there but finally came over to San Marcos where we found a place to stay.” Warner attended Richland Elementary and then Woodland Park Middle School in San Marcos before making his way just a short trip down the road to Mission Hills High School. “My overall experience at Mission Hills has been awesome,” explained Warner. “I’ve created a lot of strong bonds with my teammates and created a lot of memories, and I think Mission Hills and my coaches there have helped me grow into a better man, so it’s definitely something that I’ll never forget.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 6.23.50 PMMission Hills coach Chris Hauser is one of the most friendly human beings I have ever met, and he will talk to you for hours about football or just about life in general if you want. A genuine man, Hauser is the type of guy born with the DNA of a champion, he loves the kids he coaches, and he works hard each season to put a quality high school football program out to the San Marcos Community. If you think your kid has D-1 potential, Hauser’s Mission Hills football program is a great place for them to maximize that potential, and Troy Warner is proof of that. “If you play well in your freshmen year, coach Hauser you know…has the ability to pull you up if he wants, and luckily I got that opportunity to practice and participate with the Varsity for games and stuff like that,” said Warner. In his sophomore season, Warner got to play with his brother as well. “It was definitely really fun, we made a lot of memories, and it was an awesome experience playing with my brother because he kept me focused and he pushed me to be great.” Since then, Warner says he has learned to work harder and that his leadership has vastly improved. “During my freshmen year, I had the talent to play great football but my work ethic wasn’t there, and I was probably more about my self if anything. Sitting here now, I believe I have become a better teammate and my work ethic is much greater.” In regards to coach Hauser, Warner explained, “It’s been a long ride, and it’s been awesome because he’s taught me a lot of life lessons…you know he’s pushed me to be my best, never to settle, and just to keep working hard because the sky is the limit.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 5.51.22 PMWith his great size, length, and leaping ability, Troy Warner’s athleticism reminds me of the great Deion Sanders who also played at the DB and WR positions throughout his career. At 6’2” 185 lbs., Warner has laser-like vision, great close out speed, and smooth footwork. As a DB, his back pedal is very quick, and Warner has great tackling technique. “I think my range and my physicality helps me. I can cover a lot of space on the field for my position,” says Warner. “I think my intelligence and IQ for the game helps me stay more aware and helps out with my instinct.” So how did Warner get himself on the national recruiting radar? “Basically I got the chance to train up in L.A., and we would to travel up there every weekend. I trained with B2G for a few years during the offseason, and then during Spring I trained at Mission Hills.” Warner has also spent a lot of time studying the game. “I definitely do a lot of film watching because I think you benefit from being a student of the game, knowing your opponent, and taking practice seriously. You know practice may not always be fun, but if you have a good mindset about it and you give 100 percent I think that definitely helps the process, and it also prepares yourself and your teammates for the game.” Like most great high school football players, Warner takes the Friday Night Lights stage seriously, but he also knows how to stay calm. “The night before I will watch some film on my role models and then some more film study on our opponents. Those are some things that help me,” says Warner. “Usually I get ready for game days by listening to some music…mostly like some Future or Meek Mill.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 7.19.50 PMRecruited by Oregon, Arizona, USC, Stanford, Cal, Notre Dame, UCLA, Utah, Washington State and Boston College, Warner received a total of fifteen Division 1 scholarship offers during his high school football career at Mission Hills. “I got my first offer when I was a sophomore from BYU a little bit after I visited the campus with my brother.” With a 3.3 GPA and a score of 1690 on the SAT, Warner all but ensured himself that his football talents would lead to a full scholarship at a school of his choice. On September 16 of this year Warner, who previously had committed to Oregon University in April, announced his commitment to BYU via Twitter posting a message along with a photo edit saying: “Family Faith Football, the greatest things. With that, I’d like to announce my commitment to Brigham Young University.” Warner told San Diego Union Tribune prep sports writer John Maffei that it was a tough decision but the right one. “I had to think about this for a while, but BYU was the only school recruiting me as a receiver and DB,” Warner told Maffei. “Plus, it’s a chance to play with my brother again.” I asked Warner what he sees himself majoring in during college and he said, “I’m either going to study Business Marketing or maybe look into Political Science.”

The recruiting process may intimidate some players, but not the top recruit in the county who has handled himself exceptionally well both on and off the field. Warner has some great advice for kids who want to play high school football someday. “Stay focused, get on your schoolwork, make sure you have good grades, just continue to train, and get yourself noticed.” Warner also has some helpful advice for student athletes who are new to the recruiting game. “Make sure that you make a highlight film and send it to college coaches, and do whatever you can to get yourself recognized. Performing on the field on Friday nights is the most important thing, so you need to make sure you’re making plays and doing all the right things down there,” says Warner. “Also have a plan because without a plan you kind of just waiver sometimes, and you want to make sure you stay on track.” IMG_5372Warner, who was a top five finalist for the KUSI Silver Pigskin award this season, says he will always cherish his sophomore season the most. “Definitely winning a CIF Championship in 2013 was the most memorable moment of my high school career. We were the first one’s to do it at Mission Hills, and we were the first one’s to do it in the Open Division, so that was special.”

Just weeks before Troy Warner headed off to BYU, I was grateful to have had the opportunity to interview him because like Christopher Smith from MBA Sports quoted on his Twitter page last month, “Troy Warner is the BEST in the BUSINESS.” Along with being invited to the 5th Annual Semper-Fidelis All American Bowl played this past January 3, Warner was also selected to the 2015 All-San Diego Section First Team Defense and to the 2015 USA Today All-USA California Second Team Defense. The four-star recruit made one final official trip to USC in late December, but Warner re-affirmed his commitment to BYU with another Twitter announcement on Christmas Eve. Warner, who started classes at BYU on January 4, wanted to make sure to give some shout outs before he left. “I definitely want to give a shout out to my Mom first and also to my brother. I want to give a shout out to all of my teammates…from this year, and from year’s past. I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Terrell Burgess and I go way back. We played on Pop Warner together, so I know him from back then…And definitely a shout out to JP The Barber. He’s been a trooper…he’s an awesome dude.” Where does Warner see himself in the near future? “What I envision is me playing football at BYU with my brother and going on to do great things, hopefully making it to the NFL. I’m going to do everything I can after football to do something great as well.”

The Mission Hills Grizzlies

MHlineAlthough the 2015 Mission Hills football season did not bring home a championship to the city of San Marcos, it was still a very successful season for the program. A season that saw the emergence of a star running back by the name of Nehemiah McFarlin who torched San Diego County defenses for a school record 1,986 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns including a Mission Hills single game rushing record of 351 yards. Selected as a KUSI Silver Pigskin Finalist, McFarlin will tell you it was his offensive line that opened the holes for him to run wild this season. “It’s a sad thing that everybody sees me getting the touchdowns, but don’t recognize the boys up front,” McFarlin told Rick Willis from KUSI Sports in a post-game interview. “Because I can’t do it without my O-Line. I thank these guys everyday at practice, and every game after I score because these boys get it done, and I love ‘em. I can’t think of a better group.” One of the best offensive lines in the county, Mission Hills boasted five seniors that included: LT Jake Stetz (6’3” 245), LG Austin Bailey (5’10” 220), C Chris Mann (6’3” 310), RG Tyler Sawyer (6’1” 260), and RT Michael Liuchan (6’1” 250) along with senior TE Justus Te’I (6’3” 230). All helped pave the way for McFarlin’s record breaking season, and they worked hard to power the Mission Hills offensive attack that also included WR Tony Huebner and RB Theodore Graham.

IMG_5359The Grizzlies finished 10-0 during the regular season for the first time in school history outscoring their opponents 425-83 in the process. A strong defense led by Warner, Te’I, Hevani Makihele, Elijah Bulls, Zach Testa, Will Stricklin, Sam Dixon, David Bautista, John Paul Patton, Baseel Hamideh, and Josiah Moore dominated opponents on Friday nights this season including during a blowout win over Oceanside 45-0 in week six. It was a season where Makihele not only led his team on defense, but also in the Grizzlies’ rendition of the inspirational Haka war dance before the 2nd half of several games during the season. Sophomore Jack Tuttle also made his mark as one of San Diego County’s top quarterback prospects after taking over for injured senior Dakota Miller midway through the season. Stricklin and Te’I both picked up scholarship offers from San Diego State, and Miller has committed to Nevada. McFarlin received a scholarship offer from USD, and there has to be more D-1 colleges out there who could utilize his talent especially after the season he had.

It was also a season that saw Chris Hauser pick up his 100th win as head coach for the Grizzlies (134 overall), and a season that saw Mission Hills ranked Top 10 in the state. The Grizzlies smashed La Costa Canyon in the San Diego Section Open Division quarterfinals 47-0, but in spite of being 11-0 the new CIF power rankings forced Mission Hills to play their semi-final matchup on the road against a very strong 9-2 St. Augustine team. The Saints would play arguably their best game of the season on that night bringing Mission Hills magical 2015 run to a close. You can count on the Grizzlies getting back to the CIF Championship one day again soon though because under coach Chris Hauser’s twelve seasons of leadership at Mission Hills, the football team has reached the San Diego Section CIF semi-finals eight times including in each of the past six seasons. Take away their inaugural season in 2004, and the Mission Hills football program is 99-33-2 with four CIF Championship appearances under coach Hauser. With hard work Athletic Director Ken Putnam has built a successful top-tier athletics department at the school, and Troy Warner is yet another example of the achievements that have developed from that hard work.

You can follow Troy Warner on Twitter @TroWarner

You can follow Eric Williams on Twitter @WBKsports

You can follow Tommy Gutierrez ‪@TommyG___‪

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Mission Bay’s Run-DRC

Originally published at SDFNL Magazine

Story by Eric Williams

RUNDRC

Cover Design by Christopher Smith (@mbasports2)

Peepin’ out the situation I had to slide through
Had to watch my back my front plus my sides too
When it came to gettin’ mine I ain’t tryin, to argue
Sometimes I wouldn’ta made it if it wasn’t for you
Hip Hop, you the love of my life and that’s true

The Roots featuring Common Act Too (Love of my Life) (1999)

Intro

It is often noted in literature that hip-hop music originated in the economically depressed South Bronx section of New York City in the late 1970s. But if you research deeper, you will find that the earliest roots of hip-hop can be traced back to the Cotton Club in New York City during the mid 1920’s. There, Earl Tucker incorporated floats and slides into his dance moves that later would inspire the breakdancing era in the 1980’s. And in 1950, a sound clash contest between Jamaican music legends Coxsone Dodd’s Downbeat System and Arthur “Duke” Reid’s Trojan Sound System introduced the DJ battle to the World. The 1960’s saw legendary soul singer James Brown’s drummer, Clayton Fillyau, introduce a new sound to the music scene that would become known as the break-beat. The break-beat would inspire rap music and also the b-boy movement in the 1980’s. These early influences led to the creation of hip-hop, but it could also be argued that the great Muhammad Ali invented rap music in the mid 1960’s with his spoken word poetry and his verbal barrage of some the earliest known rhymes ever to be played on mainstream radio and television.

In 1973, DJ Kool Herc played his first block party at his sister’s birthday in the Bronx, NY. Using two turntables, Herc would stretch out break-beats by mixing two records before the breaks would finish. After seeing DJ Kool Herc perform at block parties, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa started playing at parties all over neighborhoods in the Bronx. DJ/MC Lovebug Starski coined the new culture as Hip-Hop.” In 1977, The Rock Steady Crew formed, and in 1979 Grandmaster Flash formed one of the most influential rap groups ever, The Furious 5. Around that same time another great rap crew, The Cold Crush Four, was formed and the Sugar Hill Gang also debuted their song, Rapper’s Delight. Shortly after, Kurtis Blow became the first rapper to ever appear on national television when he released “The Breaks” on Soul Train. His record sold more than a million copies, and hip-hop steadily evolved into a big business. In 1981, Kool Moe Dee humiliated Busy Bee in a spontaneous rap battle. Since then, emcee battling has become an intrinsic part of rap music. Just a few years later, the World’s most famous hip-hop trio, Run DMC, was formed and the rap game changed forever.

The Breakdown

Run-DMC At MontreuxThe hip-hop trio consisting of, “Run” (Joseph Simmons) “DMC” (Darryl McDaniels) and “Jam Master Jay” (Jason Mizell), released their first rap single in 1983. Their first album entitled, “Run-D.M.C.,” sold more than 500,000 copies within a year of release, and it was officially certified gold in 1984. Def Jam Recordings was created soon after and Run-D.M.C. became the first rap act to earn multi-platinum status with their 1986 record, “Raising Hell”. They helped propel rap music to new heights and hip-hop no longer attracted just inner-city youth, it became a universal art form with true crossover appeal. Their song My Adidas shook up American Fashion and in turn created a new culture amongst professional sports. Donning their famous Adidas tracksuits, Run-D.M.C. became the first hip-hop group to receive a million-dollar endorsement deal. Adidas released a limited edition shell-toe ‘Superstar’ sneaker, followed by a cross-branded clothing line, still in production today under the Adidas Originals label. Corporate advertisements depicting the band and their brand went on blast everywhere, and Adidas product sales increased enormously while Run-D.M.C. found immediate success.

RUN TMCAbout that same time in the Bay Area during the late 1980’s, the San Francisco 49ers won back-to-back Super Bowls and the Oakland Athletics appeared in three consecutive World Series. Also during this era in Northern California, a dynamic trio of basketball players emerged onto the NBA scene led by Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin. In reference to the rappers Run-D.M.C., the Golden State Warriors trio was nicknamed Run TMC because they were a high scoring group of players who loved to run-and-gun much like you see with the Oklahoma City Thunder in today’s NBA. For this month’s SDFNL feature article, MBA Sports founder Montell Allen came up with the great idea to feature three great players from a successful Mission Bay Buccaneers team and give them a nickname based on Run-D.M.C. as well. He asked me to talk about what makes the trio work collectively and individually. The following are my interviews with the very intellectual Myles Dumas, Jhavari Ransom, and Derrick Clark. This is their story. People of San Diego get ready. Let me see you put your hands together for some of the best prep athletes in the county: Southeast San Diego’s own Run-D.R.C.

Myles Dumas #1 Senior WR/CB – (6’0″ 170 – 4.68)

“It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.”Muhammad Ali

Myles

Photo by Christopher Smith (@mbasports2)

Myles Dumas started playing football when he was 7 years old, and he grew up here in San Diego attending Nubia Leadership Academy and Millennial Tech Middle School. Dumas played Pop Warner football for Mt. Helix and the Valencia Park Hornets with prep football stars Michael Austin and Nate Stinson. I asked Dumas if it was hard to be on a different team than his childhood friends were on, and he explained, “We’re always in contact with each other, we always see each other to this day.” When talking about his transition to Mission Bay High School from Helix, Dumas said, “It’s been real smooth at Mission Bay. It’s been real fun. This season we have really come together and put our foot on the ground without looking back. We attack every play and take full advantage of the opportunity that has come in front of us.” Dumas is also part of the Mission Bay 4 x 100 relay team that features Dumas, Jhavari Ransom, Michael Sanders, and Nigel Harness-Anderson.

Dumas began his high school football career playing for Helix head coach Troy Starr. “He’s a real good coach. That’s where I learned most of my game. I really want to wish Coach Starr the best right now.” Because of his size, Myles Dumas is very underestimated, but he always performs on the field. Many scouts simply sleep on his talent. “I need to work on getting off blocks, but my best quality on the field is coverage. I see myself more as a CB in college.” Dumas says that in his first Varsity game he felt like he had a point to prove, “I wanted to show that I was the best out there on the field period.” In the offseason, Dumas trained with Michael Austin, Jihad Woods and Nate Stinson from Helix along with Joshua Mason from San Diego High. “Michael Austin’s Dad Bobby has helped me out a lot. He’s a speed trainer. I’ve also been on that Vertimax plenty of times.”

MylesDCMyles Dumas has a great sense of humor, and he has completed his journey towards a college scholarship by looking from deep within himself. Dumas is a hard hitter; he is as quick as a wide receiver, and a sure tackler on defense. He has exceptional cover skills and is one of San Diego’s toughest opponents on defense. During the week, Dumas says he practices hard everyday and tries to have the most fun he can have. “I go out there and try to make everybody better just by competing.” His relaxed attitude on game day helps him to focus before kickoff. “On Fridays, everything is just all smiles and fun. I go out there just dancing and having fun. I can’t take it too serious.” As many football players do, Dumas bumps some hip-hop before he gets set to perform under the Friday Night Lights. “Right now we listen to some Dizzy Wright, Future, maybe some Lil Wayne…On game day, I definitely have to listen to some Future though!”

Myles4Dumas’ family hasn’t had a major influence on his football career, but they do encourage him to keep on going. “My Mom has a B.S. from Phoenix University. I’m not sure where I am headed yet, but I have 3 offers right now from NAU, Dixie State, and Western New Mexico.” A few days after our interview, Dumas picked up a fourth scholarship offer from UNLV. “I like playing CB better than WR. I see myself playing there in college. I model my game after Ty Mathieu (The Honey Badger) from LSU.” If Dumas could pick a dream school to attend, he said it would be Florida or LSU. “I have a lot of interest right now from Fresno State, Montana, UC Davis, Portland St, Weber St. and New Hampshire.” With a very respectable 3.1 GPA, Dumas is eligible for a D-1 scholarship, and he told me that he is looking to improve on that. “My GPA is only going to get better. I definitely want to study Wildlife Ecology in college.” Asked if he had any advice for the young recruits Dumas explained, “Take your schoolwork seriously because you don’t want to fall behind in football because then you’re going to fall behind in the recruiting process.”

Myles Dumas is smooth and has a lot of style like the classic 1994 hip-hop song Player’s Ball by Outkast. Dumas has become a more mature individual as the season has progressed, and that maturity will only blossom as he continues on with his education and playing career. “I want to make sure to give a shout out to all my guys at Helix…They know who they are. I also want to give a shout out to Elijah Lewis, and Sophomore Kenyon Sims who’s going to do some big things. Our lineman as well…Shoot, Everyone is doing their thing this season.”

Jhavari Ransom #6 Senior WR/CB – (6’1” 190 – 4.53)

 “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”Muhammad Ali

To be honest, the interview I had with Jhavari Ransom was one of the best I have had this season. The young man was articulate and respectful. Ransom was very interested in talking to SDFNL, confident, and a great listener. During our interview, you could tell that he really cares about other people. To break the ice, I talked about how much fun I was having spending time as a media member this season. I told him about some of the videos I took from the field and how I tweeted them out. “Yeah that sounds fun…that sounds cool,” said Ransom. “After my collegiate career, I would want to do that.” We also talked about some of the great photo edits that MBA Sports has designed for student athletes in San Diego. “I’ve been likin’ Christopher Smith’s edits. Those are really nice.”

RansomBrosRansom attended both Valencia Park and Nye Elementary schools in San Diego Unified School District, and he attended middle school at O’Farrell Charter. “I’ve only left San Diego twice my whole life. I grew up in Southeast San Diego in the Paradise Hills area.” Ransom says his family keeps him motivated to play football. “I’m going to be the first of five brothers who will go on to college and play football. What keeps me motivated is playing for them. One of my brothers played for Scripps Ranch and two of them played at Mission Bay as well. My mom and dad come to all my games, support me at all my Track and Field events, all my football events, and all my banquets. It’s pretty cool to have them there. I think that’s why I play football because I like to show my family what I can do. I really enjoy having them out there.”

Ransom began playing football in middle school, but it did not last very long. “I only played one year of Pop Warner and that was my 7th grade year for the Tierrasanta Cougars. I broke my ankle in the 4th game of the season, and I didn’t play football again until high school. Even though I couldn’t play Pop Warner, I loved football so I was still playing in the neighborhood with my friends.” During high school, Ransom worked his way back on to the football field, and his passion for the game grew even larger. “I started on Varsity in my sophomore year at wide-out. It was kind of scary at first, but after I caught my first ball and got some contact I knew I was where I belonged, doing what I could do, and it’s what I loved to do so I just kept playin’ and ended up getting better at it.” Ransom also runs track participating in the 4 x 100 relay and both the 100 and 200 meter events. “Track gives me endurance, and it works my stride which helps me when I run my routes or when I’m covering somebody on defense. It helps me get the right footwork. The calisthenics we do before track meets help me to keep my body in shape for football and strengthen my legs to their highest ability.”

Bucs_Celebrate

Photo by Chadd Cady S.D Union Tribune

During the season, Ransom works very hard to maximize his potential, and he has great study habits in the film room. “I look at the previous week and look at how I ran my routes and also how I covered on defense to see where I made my mistakes…like if I made the wrong cut or my footwork was bad,” said Ransom. “I’ll get better at it in practice working at it over and over again, rep after rep so I can prepare for the next week. I try to key in on the little things that can make me a better football player.” Ransom is a very coachable athlete who has taken advantage of the training available to him. “I had the opportunity to work with George Whitfield this offseason. He brought out some next level receivers, some alumni from Mission Bay, and QBs from Ole Miss, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Syracuse, LSU…Connor Cook from Michigan State was out there too so we got a real nice session with that. He helped me with my footwork, my catching ability, getting my head around, and securing the ball.” Ransom said Whitfield also brought Ole Miss star wide receiver Laquan Treadwell out to camp and that he tries to model his own game after Treadwell.

Ransom has been talking to Dixie State, UC Davis, Montana, and Montana St. He has an offer from Western New Mexico and is registered for the 2015 SDFNL All-Star showcase game. When I mentioned MBA Sports recruiter Montell Allen to Ransom he told me, “He’s a good dude…I met him at the Western New Mexico camp. It was fun. He taught me a few tactics to improve my game. He’s a good recruiter to know.” During 7v7 games this summer, Ransom matched up with one of San Diego County’s top recruits. “I played against Terrell Burgess at the SDSU passing tournament, and he’s the truth. He gave me some good competition.” Ransom has great ball hawking abilities, and he is also very aggressive. “On defense, I look to dictate the game and shut down my receiver. Sometimes I can be too aggressive, so I need to get better at playing the ball and not just the receiver. I need to make sure I know where the ball is at all times.” Ransom can be physical on offense as well. “I’m always looking to make the DBs react to me during the game.” Ransom wants to become a Civil Engineer when he is done with college. “I want to major in Civil Engineering and get my Master’s Degree,” he explained. “I had a project to do during 8th grade, and I thought it was fun. It’s kind of a hard task to do, and I always love obstacles in life because I think it makes you a better person.”

Jhavari

Photo by Chadd Cady

Jhavari Ransom is the type of player who will fight to the end of every play. Ransom has matured into a very intelligent young football player here towards the end of his senior season. “Mentally when I made a mistake in a game as a freshmen, I would probably get down on myself, but now I just rub it off and try to make a better play the next time.” Some players may get nervous, but game days are relaxing for Ransom. “On Fridays I just listen to my music stay calm, sit down, and try not to get overanxious…not worry too much and just react to the game. I’ll usually listen to some Kendrick Lamar, Drake or Future.” Ransom had some great advice for any football players who have ever doubted themselves when they see bigger players on the other side of the field. “Don’t worry about your opponents size, focus on your own abilities and what you’re capable of doing and at the end of the day if you go out there and do your best, you’re going to have a good result.”

Like the timeless 1988 EPMD song, Jhavari Ransom is Strictly Business. “I’d like to give a shout-out to Coach Peterson for working with me on my DB drills, and shout out to my old coach, coach Carr who taught me everything I know about playing receiver, and shout out to the O-line who has been doing a remarkable job from last year to this year, how they improved and how they are blocking and protecting the QB and making holes for DC. Shout out to our defense for improving this season as well.”

Derrick Clark #2 Senior RB/QB/PR (5’ 11” 200 – 4.47)

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life” -Muhammad Ali

DC

Photo by Chadd Cady

 Mission Bay star running back Derrick Clark was born and raised in San Diego. He attended Rolando Park Elementary and then Millennial Tech Middle School with Helix stars Nate Stinson and Jihad Woods. “Nothing has really changed, we all grew up together you know…they are my best friends. Nothing’s really going to change with us…you know. It’s just distance.” Clark grew up with some of the players on the current Helix football team, but he decided to transfer over to Mission Bay after his sophomore season because he had built a relationship with friends on that side of town as well. “It was just a decision I made because I also had friends over at Mission Bay who I grew up with. At Helix it was Nate and a few other guys, but at Mission Bay it was like my whole Pop Warner team, my little league team, you know everybody.” It was a decision that made sense especially if you consider that Derrick Clark may be a better at playing baseball than he is at playing football.

DC2

Photo by Christopher Smith (@mbasports2)

“I’m a really great baseball player actually,” explained Clark who played in the Senior Little League World Series prior to his freshmen year representing a Lemon Grove team that made it to the World Championship game in 2012. “We lost to Guatemala or we would have been the World Champs, but we ended up being the U.S. Champs.” Around this time of year, Clark normally is getting ready to play scout ball for the Tampa Bay Rays, but now that teams know he is committed to a scholarship offer, Clark says the baseball scouting has kind of died down. “Growing up the MLB draft was always on my mind…I knew I had the potential. I’ve played on Varsity since I was a freshman. There was a high chance that I would have been drafted after this season, but after receiving on offer from Cal I had to really stop, pump the brakes, and really think about everything. Baseball is a tricky game and sometimes it doesn’t work out, but a degree from Cal? You’re writing your own ticket.” For a young kid, I assumed it must have been a tough decision, but for Clark it was not. “I had a whole bunch of options to choose from and Cal just stood out the most…the decision wasn’t really that hard.” And Clark never felt pressured by his family to make that decision. “My pops played Minor League Baseball for the Padres. For me growing up, it was always baseball, football…baseball, football, but you know he never really pushed me towards just one sport. It was play both and whatever decision you make, I’m going to be here to support it.”

DC3

Photo by Christopher Smith (@mbasports2)

Clark said that his father wouldn’t have really cared if he ever played sports. “He cared more about me succeeding academically. He wanted me to do well in the classroom and anything after that was great, but he’s here for me regardless of anything. My pops…I love him to death. He’s my best friend.” Clark values his family, friends, coaches and teammates a great deal. His older brother has Autism and Clark says he cares for him a lot. “I’ve always been the bigger brother. He’s great…He’s fun to be around. I volunteer with the Special Olympics a lot, so being around kids with special needs is just a blessing.” These past few months have been rewarding for Derrick Clark, but not just because the recruiting process has been so successful for him. “The best part for me is just seeing everybody else start to blossom and get offers, like Jhavari and Miles and all the other guys who people say weren’t going anywhere and are now starting to rise up. This season really hasn’t been about me. I’ve just been here to play a part in what everyone else needs to succeed in life. I appreciate my teammates.” Clark has an amazing amount of respect for veteran coach Willie Matson (178-135-6) as well. “I could never really ask for a better coach. Coach Matson is just really understanding and a great guy to play for. He is very knowledgeable. We just love him.”

Clark began playing football at the Varsity level during his freshmen year at Helix High School. “I didn’t play on freshmen long, so I’ve been on Varsity for four years. I left Helix after football season my sophomore year.” Clark has a ton of respect for his current coach, but he also wanted to make sure to credit his first Varsity coach, Troy Starr. “I got to give love to coach Starr. He was a great coach…a great coach! Coach Starr was one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He’s a smart man, and really knew how to teach us. He really drilled in the concepts of the game.” When he heard about Coach Starr’s retirement news a few weeks ago, Clark became concerned. “I really want to send my regards to Coach Starr. I wish him the best. He is a great coach, and I appreciate him a lot.”

DCmylesGame days are fun for Clark and his teammates. “On Friday’s it’s actually really chill,” Clark says. “Everyone is in their own little zone, and after school we go up to Subway, eat a little bit, come back, and work out a little bit. I know for Myles and me after we eat our food; we go in and get a couple curls in…some pull-ups. We get a little quick workout in.” And the hip-hop influence is definitely part of Clark’s pre-game activity as well. “Usually before our games, we play a lot of Future. That just really seems to get our team going.” Clark attributes Mission Bay’s success this season to coach Matson’s early training program. “We started earlier than we previously had, before school ended this past year. Over at Helix, we used to start right after the season so I kind of felt a little Deja-Vu when coach Matson told us we were going to be starting earlier.” But the early start did not bother Clark one bit. “I actually liked it. We had our strength and conditioning coach, coach Roman, come in everyday and schedule lifts and everything like that. What was a big part for us and the success we’ve had this season, is that we actually started running our plays early in the year so we could get used to them.”

Clark says he has also been able to focus on his running game more this season because the Bucs have a true starting QB. “Last year we didn’t really have a quarterback, so I played there. This season we have Jaiden Correa. It’s only his 2nd year of playing football, and he’s just doing great.” Clark also attributed this season’s positive results to the team’s offseason work ethic. “I think it’s part of the summer training we had. We just came in focused, executed, and now it’s starting to pay off.” The Bucs have had a very successful regular season (8-2) that ended with some bad losses, but Clark knows his squad will be ready for the playoffs. “We evaluate ourselves after each game, practice hard, see what we can do better, and talk it over as a team on our Monday meeting to plan out what we are going to do each week.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 9.26.14 PMOne thing about Derrick Clark is that he often has a target on his back because of that offer he holds from Cal, but Clark has handled the pressure well. “Part of my game is in my confidence. When I step on the field, I’m the man. I’m going to do what I do, and everyone else is going to follow. I lead by example so if I rise to the occasion, the team will rise to the occasion too.” Clark’s confidence in himself is what allowed him to be noticed by the bigger colleges, but his athleticism is what ultimately led colleges to offer him a scholarship. “Cal said they like my speed, my size, and my ability to make guys miss. It’s an asset they were looking for in their program.” Clark explained that an offer from Cal was a dream come true. “I was ecstatic! It was just a great feeling. Growing up watching Cal games with Marshawn Lynch, Aaron Rodgers, DeSean Jackson, that was just about everybody I wanted to be.”

Clark understandably knows there are improvements that he can make. “It definitely doesn’t hurt to get faster. I’m definitely going to be doing a lot of speed training in the off-season.” Clark works out with the father of current NFL standout Houston Texans running back Arian Foster. “We have a really great relationship and he’s showing me all his tips and secrets and how to navigate through everything.” As far as advice, Clark says student athletes should not make a commitment to an offer right away. “Be patient…you know. Don’t rush it; It’ll come with time. Don’t be too eager to get your first offer. Just go out on to the field and have fun and everything will fall in place.” With a 3.8 GPA, Clark will be graduating early so he can attend Cal in the spring. “Right now it looks like I will be majoring in business.”

Fresh as the 1988 Rakim song Follow The Leader, Derrick Clark is a prototype for top-level prep football recruits. Knowledge is dangerous and it can be misconstrued, but Derrick Clark is a straight shooter who has no time for the non-believers. If you follow his lead, you may just end up with that D-1 scholarship to your dream school. “I want to give a shout-out to all my dudes at Helix…Michael Austin, Jihad Woods, and Nate Stinson.”

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Outro

 With cameras from multiple angles on all sides of the football field, in-game video technology, and messaging via social networking sites, the prep football game has become very similar to the rap game in the sense that rap stars are marketed for that hit record like prep football athletes are marketed for that college scholarship. Every week during the football season, the media will promote players, coaches, and teams mostly because they want to help kids, but also because high school football is exciting to watch and everybody wants a piece of the pie. Plain and simple, Friday Night Lights are part of American Culture just as much as rap and hip-hop are. Not every prep football player will be offered a college scholarship though, just like not every rapper will sign a record deal. You have to work hard for those things. Collectively, Run- D.R.C. has worked hard to help raise the Mission Bay Buccaneers football program to a higher level. Individually, the trio will each be pursuing a college degree with a Division 1 NCAA scholarship.

Current Mission Bay Defensive Coordinator Mel Galli who was the head Coach of Carlsbad from 1979-1986 and head coach of Ramona from 1988-1990 shared his thoughts on the Coach Ro Show a few weeks back saying that, “We’ve got guys that are literally playing for their lives here. At Mission Bay, we give kids an opportunity to change their lives. These are the stars of our World right now.” This is the case for Myles Dumas, Jhavari Ransom, and Derrick Clark. All three of them have taken their game to the next level, and the success has been contagious. Just last week, Mission Bay WR Michael Sanders picked up his first scholarship offer from the University of Ohio. The Buccaneers started the season reeling off eight straight wins, and are locked into the #2 seed with a bye in the D-3 San Diego Section CIF Playoffs. Prep football legends are talked about in the history books, but the banners that schools hang in their gyms are for the winners. The 2015 Mission Bay football team will be remembered for having a great season, but they will be legends for a lifetime if they can bring home a championship.

Yo I’m strictly about skills and dope lyrical coastin’
Relying on talent, not marketing and promotion
If a dope lyrical flow is a must
You gots to go with a name you can quickly trust
I’m not sayin’ I’m number one, uhh I’m sorry, I lied
I’m number one, two, three, four and five
Stop wastin’ your money on marketing schemes
and pretty packages pushin’ dreams to the beams
A dope MC is a dope MC
With or without a record deal, all can see

KRS-One “Step Into A World(1997)

You can follow Eric Williams on Twitter @WBKsports

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Nate Stinson – Game Changer

Originally published for SDFNL Magazine.

Story by Eric Williams

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Intro

Prior to the 1985 prep football season, San Diego City Schools changed their recording format for game reels from 8-millimeter film to videotape. At that same time, CIF officially allowed third party teams to video record games for the purpose of scouting their opponents. The invention of the DVD in 1995 allowed for more advanced athletic programs to take the early edge in scouting and also recruitment. By the turn of the century, the ability to “Burn” DVDs soon became accessible to all football programs and individual players across the country. In 2005, three men who had studied computer science and design founded a video sharing company that would become known as YouTube. A decade later, high quality video footage can be recorded and instantly shared on-line within minutes. Because of this advancement in technology, the football recruiting game has changed, and so too has the ability for football programs to prepare for each game and scout their opponents. Being able to immediately view game film over the Internet has also helped the media to better analyze athletes and different levels of teams. It also gives fans a better look at football programs from all across the country.

Being a North County resident for so many years, I haven’t always been able to watch the top high school football prospects from the South Bay and East County areas of the San Diego except for during the CIF playoffs. To learn more about some of the great football talent we have in this city, I scan the Internet for game film of the players and teams I notice who are making the most noise. Sometime last season, I typed the words, “Nathen Stinson Helix Football” into the YouTube search engine of my computer because I wanted to learn more about this speedy running back who I had seen in a playoff game at Mission Hills during the 2013 season. When the results popped up, I discovered a vault of incredible video footage that goes all the way back to Nate Stinson’s days in Pop Warner.

Watching Nate Stinson highlights on video is exciting, but you don’t get a chance to really see how hard the kid works unless you see him play live. This past Friday Night, I took the journey to Southwestern College to watch the Helix Highlanders take on the Bonita Vista Barons. I wanted to see firsthand who Nate Stinson was in person. Nate did not disappoint that night running for just under 100 yards on 13 carries with 2 touchdowns, including a nifty 33-yard run that broke the ankles of multiple defenders from Bonita Vista. The most noteworthy observation I made was Stinson’s detailed pre-game workout. From stretching to warm-up, and controlled offensive drills, Stinson was focused the entire time. He worked very intensely with his running back coach making sure to stretch his legs and get his footwork settled in. Stinson also worked hard on his power moves. Nate Stinson’s work ethic during pre-game testifies to why he is so good come game time. He’s loose; he’s strong, and ready to roll by kickoff.

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Nate Stinson’s Story

Nate Stinson started playing football when he was five years old in Southeastern San Diego for the Valencia Park Hornets, and he knew he wanted to play high school football since his Jr. Midget days. His family also played football for Valencia Park, and Stinson grew up right here in San Diego attending Vista La Mesa Academy for elementary school later moving on to the upper grade levels at Millennial Tech Middle School in La Mesa. When I asked him about his experience at those schools Stinson humbly explained, “It was pretty nice.” Stinson played football his freshmen year of high school and he also played baseball, but he decided to join the Track and Field team for his sophomore year. It was a decision that may have left the Helix Baseball team without a potential star, but one that helped give the Helix Track program the fastest 4 x 100 relay team in all of San Diego County.

Comprised of Stinson, Michael Austin, Mason Vinyard, and Mekhi Stevenson, the Helix relay team ran a 42.02 in the San Diego CIF finals and went on to represent San Diego in the State Track Meet this past June. “It was very competitive,” Stinson said. “It was really good.” Stinson says that Track and Field has been beneficial to his game on the football field, “It’s helped me increase my endurance and breakaway speed.” It is a scary thing to consider for defensive coordinators around the county because Stinson also holds the sixth fastest 100-yard dash time ever at Helix running a 10.77 in 2015. That explosiveness and cohesiveness that Stinson, Austin, Vinyard, and Stevenson exhibit on their 4×100 relay team, carries over to the football field as well.

HelixChemistry“We have great Chemistry,” Stinson explained about his Helix teammates. “Mike is an outstanding quarterback. He’s a great runner too. You try to tackle him and he’s already out. Mekhi is real good. He’s got that speed, and he can jump too. He has great hands. If you try to cover him one-on-one, it’s probably not going to work. You’re just going to be running down the field. Mason Vinyard is a monster…on offense and defense! Jihad Woods is a beast at linebacker. He’s fast too. Nobody is going to get to the outside on him!” After tough open division playoff losses to Mission Hills in 2013 and to Oceanside in 2014, Stinson and his teammates are focused on playing one week at a time in 2015. “We’re just going to work hard each week for the games we have right now, and when that time comes for playoffs we’re going to work even harder. That time is going to be some real hard practice weeks; I can already tell…I can already see it.”

Helix Highlanders (The Scotties)

Stinson describes the feeling that comes with playing for one of the best high school football programs in San Diego saying that, “Playing at Helix has been great. The atmosphere is great…the fans get hype, and we have a big student crowd out each game.” Stinson said he also hangs out with his teammates during his free time, “Sometimes my teammates and I will go through our plays, but mostly we’ll just kick it.” When I was writing a short piece on Mekhi Stevenson for SDFNL, I discovered on Twitter that one of Stevenson’s friends was an aspiring musical artist who goes by the name of Louie the Rapper. I asked Stinson to give me some insight on the kid because from what I saw on Sound Cloud, Mekhi Stevenson had created some tracks with Louie under the name M2B. “That’s my dude right there,” said Stinson about Louie. “That’s my dude. He’s a good rapper. I respect his music.” But the fun and games that come with being a great football program does not come without hard work from its players and coaching staff. And that work ethic begins with legendary Helix head coach, Troy Starr.

CoachStarrFor 14 seasons, Starr was the head coach of the Woodland Hills Taft high school football program in Los Angeles. He led Taft to six Division-1 championship games winning the title in the 1998 game. Starr finished his run at Taft with a record of 139-36-1. In 2007, Starr resigned from Taft to become the director of football operations for Urban Meyer at the University of Florida. In 2008, Starr took over the program at Helix and since then has compiled a record of 75-19-1 during his tenure at the school. Starr has taken Helix to the San Diego County CIF semifinals in all seven of his seasons as head coach, and he has led the team to appearances in four San Diego CIF championship games. Coach Starr led his Helix squad to a State Championship in 2011 after playoff wins vs. Torrey Pines, Mission Hills, and Oceanside, outscoring those teams 109-13 in the process. In the Championship Game, Helix beat Loomis Del Oro who at the time were winners of 12 straight games.

Nate Coach2“It’s a lot of hard work, but he teaches us lot and he prepares us for college, so it’s worth it,” Stinson said about playing in coach Starr’s program. Chris Davis from east County Sports reported that coach Starr said Nate Stinson is, “In my personal opinion, the best back in the county.” I e-mailed Coach Starr myself and asked him to speak a little bit about his star running back and he said, “Nate is the best RB in the county and it’s not even close. He has matured into a leader on this team.” Stinson also recognized his running back coach Jason Van saying, “He is the best running back coach I have ever had.” Stinson credited Coach Bobby Austin as well who he says, “Got me on that Vertamax and got me right…that thing aint no joke.” Nate told me I should try it out sometime, but I told him after many years of playing sports, I would be too afraid or tearing some part of my body on that thing.

Friday Night Lights

Imagine for a moment it’s the year 2012, and you are the freshmen football coach at Helix Charter High School; you take a look at your RB core and you have three great options Bush and Natewith Adrian Petty (Christian High School), Derrick Clark, (Mission Bay) and Nate Stinson (Helix). So what happened in the next few years that allowed Nate Stinson to become the #1 back for one the best programs in San Diego? Christopher Smith from MBA Sports Recruiting explains that, “Nate Stinson flat out worked harder than anybody else. He was patient, and he believed in himself. Nate is a “team first” kind of player who respects the game of football,” explained Smith. “He is a gym rat who may just be the strongest player pound for pound in San Diego. He is electrifying to watch. There is no doubt about it, Nate Stinson is the best running-back to come out of the Helix football program since Reggie Bush,” said Smith. “One-on-One there is no LB who can catch him…Period!”

Stinson’s first Varsity appearance for Helix came during his sophomore year, a game in which he got hurt. After watching from the sidelines for a few games, Stinson returned to the field stronger. “I was out for like four weeks, and I came back and earned the starting spot after that.” During the football season, it’s all business for Nate and his Helix teammates. “Mondays are the hardest days for practice. We run a lot. On Tuesdays we take it light, but still get work done. On Wednesdays we go hard at practice, but not as hard as Mondays. On Thursdays we review for the upcoming game…sometimes we will watch film on our opponents.” On Friday’s though, it’s go time for Stinson. “Throughout the whole day on Friday’s, my adrenaline is just going, and I prepare my mind for the game. Closer to game time, the same adrenaline is there but I start to get more hyped.”

When it’s not football season, Stinson puts in even more work. “During the offseason, I run track so that prepares me for football. I also work on my cuts and footwork, so I can stay right.” Via the Coach Ro Show last week Stinson said, “In the offseason we’re in the locker room lifting weights at 6:00 AM before school starts.” Stinson says that Coach Starr also runs the weight room program at Helix. I asked Nate if he models his game after anybody in the NFL, and told me, “Ladainian Tomlinson…he’s the original.” The comparisons are there athletically to LT, but Stinson also carries with him that same soft-spoken demeanor that Tomlinson had and that underlying fire LT had to be the best player in every game. Because he can catch ball very well, Stinson is also a great option in the passing game, much like Tomlinson was for the Chargers in the early 2000’s. Stinson says other coaches have compared his running styles to Maurice Jones Drew. I like to compare Nate Stinson’s game with Darren Sproles. He is about the same height and weight as Sproles and Stinson has that same burst of speed Sproles is known for when he sees daylight.

Recruiting

The stats are hard to find for Stinson’s sophomore season in 2013 but in the four games I found on Max Preps, Stinson racked up 430 yards on 51 carries. He also had two touchdowns including a 75-yard touchdown run versus West Hills. In his junior season, Stinson had over 180 carries for 1,550 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns in 13 games. Those 20 touchdowns included runs of 92, 80, 76, 64, 59, 56, and 45 yards. Stinson also ran in 3 touchdowns for just over 30 yards in that same season. During his first four games of IMG_47422015, his senior season, Stinson has carried the ball 65 times for 568 yards and 10 touchdowns averaging about 142 yards rushing per game. This season, Stinson already has touchdown runs of 66 and 42 yards vs. Eastlake, 52 yards against Chaparral (AZ), 51 yards at Cathedral Catholic, and 33 yards this past week against Bonita Vista. For his career, Nate Stinson has averaged just under 9 yards per carry and 120 yards rushing per game. He has 10 touchdown runs of at least 50 or more yards including 4 touchdowns of 75 yards or more and another 6 touchdowns of at least 30 yards playing at the Varsity level for Helix. “My mindset is just to play hard every game,” Stinson told me. “I just try to stay humble.”

Stinson has offers from Northern Arizona, Idaho, and Southern Utah. Portland State is also looking at him as well. “I’ve always thought it would be good to play for San Diego State because it’s close to home…right up the street.  I’m open-minded though…I’ll go anywhere.” Stinson is a RB whose 40-yard dash has been laser timed at 4.38, and at 5’5’ 180, the bulky speedster can squat over 500 pounds. Stinson is also holding down a very solid GPA of 3.3. “I’ll be making an official visit to NAU to see how that goes. Football is important to me, but so is my education.” During our conversation, Stinson was all in and he answered every question I asked of him politely and respectfully. It goes with all that hard work and humbleness Stinson consistently exhibits. He is focused off the field and the results have been positive on the field both personally and for the Helix football program as a whole. “On the field, my speed is my biggest asset. Off the field, I’m a really funny guy. I’m cool with everybody,” Nate proudly expressed to me.

Stinson said he wanted to work on talking more to his teammates during games, “I don’t really talk that much during actual games. I’d like to talk to my teammates more and get them more hyped during the game.” It’s not that Stinson doesn’t communicate well because as he explained to me, “During practice I’m talking the entire time.” Asked about his advice for the younger kids in pop warner or at the freshmen and JV levels Stinson said, “Just play hard and focus on your game. Don’t do anything stupid. If you’re an athlete, don’t post ignorant things on social networking sites because somebody is always watching…always watching.” I asked Nate about his career goals and he explained, “I love Science, so I’m thinking about being an engineer.” I told him that it’s a pretty tough career with a lot of work, and he responded confidently to me saying, “I can do it…I can do it.” Not only is Nate Stinson dedicated to Helix teammates, he also cares about other athletes from around the county. “I have a lot of respect for Elijah Preston. He’s a great running back. Also my boy Derrick (Clark), and my boy Myles Dumas.”

A Humble Kid from San Diego

nsIf you ever get a chance to see Nate Stinson’s videos on YouTube from when he played Pop Warner football, you will definitely hear his family supporting him in the background cheering and laughing as Nate breaks away from the defense for a long TD run much like he has done so many times during his high-school career. “Their great supporters…They don’t pressure me so I like that,” explained Stinson about his family. Via e-mail, I connected with Seven60 Athletes Inc. Founder and President Coach Fale Poumele to learn more about Nate Stinson’s character qualities. Poumele told me, “Nate is a great kid both on and off the field. He brings out the best of anyone in his presence including his coaches and peers. Thinking back I remember taking a team to a 7v7 tournament in Fontana and Nate hurt his hamstring in the very first game. He tried playing into our second game but he physically was unable to continue. Instead of going home, he made the decision to stay and root for his teammates and helped our staff by coaching some of the underclassman on the sidelines.” Coach Fale also said that Nate comes from an awesome family where his humble and stand out personality comes from.  “Nate is one who puts others before himself and a young man who is selfless, humble, loyal and very respectful He truly is a great kid, and I am very excited to see what the future holds for him.”

As a media member it’s important for me to not be biased, but I can’t lie Nate Stinson is one of my favorite prep football players in all of San Diego County. You can tell when a player has that instinct, when he has that extra level that only the great ones can reach. Stinson is an exciting player to watch; he will literally put defenders on the ground, ankles broken. Stinson has incredible lateral movement, and he is great at recognizing the holes his offensive line develops. With quick and subtle footwork, Stinson has been beating defenders on the outside since he was 10 years old. Don’t believe me? Go check for yourself. Type his name up in the YouTube search engine. Pretty much every football video I’ve watched of Nate Stinson contains just about the exact same footage. Nate finds the hole and then explodes through it faster than lightning, finishing with what has become Stinson’s signature highlight…a breakaway to the house!

NateIt’s time to put this kid on the national radar. Being an educator, my primary goal in writing these articles is to further promote hard working student athletes in San Diego County. Nate Stinson is a hard worker, but he is also a standout individual. As we finished our conversation he finished with a few more words, “I want to give a shout out to my family and also Coach Starr.” I told Nate thank you for taking the time to do an interview with me, and he finished our conversation telling me, “Thank you coach.” Nate Stinson is more than just a dynamic running back; he is smart young man who respects life and the people in it.

You can follow Nate Stinson on Twitter @calimadenate

You can follow Eric Williams on Twitter @WBKsports

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