With Danville residents Sam Keller and Kyle Wright starting at quarterback for national powers Nebraska and Miami (Fla.), respectively, and Salesian High School of Richmond graduate Jahvid Best electrifying fans as a dynamic freshman running back at Cal, it’s clear to see that Bay Area high schools have a bevy of talented football players ready to perform on a national collegiate level.
But it’s not just the local high schools in the Bay Area that are producing droves of Division I players. The nearby community colleges, including City College of San Francisco and the College of San Mateo, have been equally instrumental in breeding talented athletes for Division I programs — but only recently have the big-time Bay Area schools taken notice.
"There has been national awareness about our program for a while," said CCSF coach George Rush, whose 2006 team featured 20 players who moved up to Division I-A or I-AA schools. "But it wasn’t until Jeff Tedford arrived at Cal did we really have the local Pac-10 schools looking at us. Jeff did a tremendous job of changing the perceived image of what a junior college football player is supposed to be."
Since arriving in Berkeley in 2002, Tedford has rung up a career record of 45-20, due in large part to the talents of community college transfers, including two from CCSF — quarterback Joe Ayoob and linebacker Desmond Bishop, a 2007 draft pick of the Green Bay Packers.
And while not quite on the national awareness level as Cal, San Jose State, led by third-year coach Dick Tomey, has also benefited greatly from the influx of transfers.
Leaning heavily on the talents of juco players (the Spartans have 22 JC transfers on their roster, including three from CSM), Tomey helped engineer a six-game turnaround from 2005 to ’06, resulting in the Spartans’ first bowl appearance since 1990.
Whereas Tedford and Tomey have dipped frequently into the pool of athletes in the local community colleges, Stanford has neglected to take part in that recruiting process.
"I’m not sure if it’s academic elitism or whatever, but Stanford just doesn’t have the belief that community college kids can handle the rigors of their classes," Rush said.
He cited an instance in which Stanford showed no interest in then-CCSF quarterback Zac Lee, despite having high SAT scores while studying at St. Ignatius High School. He ended up at Nebraska, backing up Keller.
Tedford said recruiting jucos has been a win-win situation.
"Our community college players have helped us out tremendously here," Tedford said. "It’s not just on the field, either. They’re succeeding academically and they’ve got outstanding character. All of the community college transfers we’ve had here have been great guys."
One of those "great guys" Tedford cites is Lavelle Hawkins, a senior wide receiver who suited up for CCSF for a year in 2004 — an experience he credits with preparing him for the big-time athletics of Division I football.
"It was a huge help playing at CCSF and lining up against some D-I opponents every week," said Hawkins, who leads the Bears with 12 catches for 133 yards and passed the 1,000-yard mark for his career last weekend. "It did take about a year to get adjusted to all the different plays they have at Cal, but as far as the academics and everything else, it was the same as always for me — you just gotta stay focused and make sure you take care of your business."
The three Bay Area Division I football teams vary greatly in how they use junior college transfers.
Coach: Jim Harbaugh
Juco transfers on roster: 0
Coach: Jeff Tedford
Juco transfers on roster: 9
Coach: Dick Tomey
Juco transfers on roster:22
Junior colleges such as CCSF and CSM offer a path to better opportunities for football players.
» MONDAY: The history behind CCSF and CSM
» TUESDAY: Junior college provides second chances
» WEDNESDAY: Plethora of teams means state stands alone
» TODAY: How do the big boys use jucos?
» FRIDAY: Making it all the way to the NFL