LBCC student athletes pose for cameras after signing their national letters of intent. Photo by Jason Ruiz.
National Signing Day has become a day in which gaudy press conferences and professionally-produced videos transfix the nation’s sports fans, as they put their lives on hold to find out if their team landed the five-star, 17-year-old athlete that will change the trajectory of their favorite teams.
Today, Long Beach City College (LBCC) hosted a much more modest event celebrating student-athletes from the school’s football, soccer, baseball and cross country teams, as those Vikings put pen to paper on their letters of intent.
The biggest story coming out of the signing day ceremony was the last-minute flip of defensive lineman Josh Fatu, who was scheduled to commit to play football for Boise State University next fall before he received a phone call from the University of Southern California early this morning. Vikings Coach Brett Peabody said the call came in just before 7:00AM, and USC informed Fatu that a scholarship was available for him to play for the Trojans. He described the moment as a dream come true and wasted no time committing to USC.
“It was very important for my family to be able to come and watch me every game; it’s just a blessing to stay home,” Fatu said.
Listed at 6’3” and weighing in at over 280 pounds, Fatu was regarded as a three-star prospect by most online scouting services. He was a non-qualifier out of high school, forcing him to go the community college route to improve his grades. Peabody said Fatu, like all of his other players, bought into the classroom as much as they did football, which is why they’re here today.
“What makes this group special and those other guys that move on is, in addition to being great players, these guys really embrace the classroom,” Peabody said. “I’ve coached great players in the past that haven’t bought into school and then didn’t make it.”
Other players moving on from the school’s football team that advanced to last year’s Southern California Championship Game are: defensive end JJ Allen (Arizona), offensive lineman Nick Jordan (Duquense), linebacker Thomas Patolo (Eastern New Mexico) and defensive backs Keanu Hill (Tulsa), London Iakopo (Louisville), Courtney Crockett (Idaho State). Star defensive end Matt Boesen signed a letter of intent last month to play for Texas Christian University next year.
Peabody was especially proud of Allen and Crockett, who overcame injuries but still managed to land scholarships to continue their playing careers. Allen sat out all of last year and Crockett overcame two ACL injuries to become a contributor to the team's defensive secondary.
Over the last two years the Vikings posted a 19-4 record which was the best mark for any school in Southern California. As much pride as he takes in the on-field success of his players he said he takes equally as much pride in making sure they get placed into four-year universities after their days at LBCC are complete. As with some of those players signing letters today, often times the athletes he coaches are first generation college students and Peabody said making sure they continue their higher education has the potential to permanently change their socioeconomic standing.
Football is only part of the puzzle he added, making sure they earn a degree is the most important aspect. As for the Vikings’ outlook next year, Peabody said the team could be the best he’s ever coached.
“We feel like we have a chance next year to really put together the best team we’ve ever had out on the field,” Peabody said. “Keep your eye on us, we’ve got a bunch of really great local kids coming in, we’ll have a great recruiting class, a great nucleus returning, we’ve got an All-American Mike Wilson at receiver and a lot of all conference guys. The future’s bright.”