Introducing the 2007 Class: Luis Vasquez

In the world of college recruiting, the only constant is change. Initially, a coaching change prevented ASU from getting a shot at Luis Vasquez. Ironically, it was a coaching change at the school the defensive end committed to, Washington State, which ultimately brought Vasquez to Tempe. It surely has been a long journey (both figuratively and geographically) for this talented JC transfer.

The 6-3 247 Luis Vasquez has been a menace to opposing quarterbacks during his two years at Arizona Western. He earned All-American honors during his tenure in Yuma and his 15 sacks his sophomore year guided him to win the WSFL sack title in back-to-back years (he had 16 his freshman season). Aside from being named a NJCAA first-team All American, he was also selected as the NJCAA Region 1 Defensive MVP, and named WSFL first team. Vasquez was also the NJCAA Region Number 1 ranked football player overall. With all these accolades he was naturally a hot commodity in terms of recruiting.

"I was contacted by (ASU defensive line coach) Coach Grady Stretz my freshman year," recalled Vasquez. "It was a brief meeting. They (ASU) expressed their interest in me and I expressed my interest in them. Playing in Yuma, I did get exposed more to Arizona State than other teams. In-state recruiting is a big thing for them and it definitely helped them get the upper hand with me in the end." Vasquez added that ASU's archrival Arizona didn't show much interest in him.

When Arizona State offered, Oregon State, UNLV, UTEP, and Washington State had already extended scholarship offers. "ASU did kind of offer me late," Vasquez admitted. "I was suppose to come there on a visit and they were gonna offer me then. But with the coaching change that visit didn't happen…so with all those coaching changes at ASU, I committed to Washington State and was pretty happy with them. Coach Stretz called me when I committed and said ‘Congratulations. If something does happen please give me a call."

And sure enough there was a reason for Vasquez to contact Stretz.

The Cougars' defensive coordinator Robb Akey left for the head coaching position at Idaho, ironically replacing the person who's now ASU's new skipper – Dennis Erickson. So just like Dirk Koetter's departure eliminated the Sun Devils from landing the defensive end earlier in the year, now Akey's decision to leave Washington State caused Vasquez to have a change of heart. "At the time I felt real comfortable with Washington State and the coaches there," he noted. "Arizona State was my second choice, but because of the coaching change I wasn't considering them anymore. After I committed I didn't go on any trips or talk to any coaches – I was ready to go to Washington State."

While Vasquez believes that "your word is your bond," he also felt that because of the new situation at Washington State he had to do what's best for him and re-open his recruitment. "I talked to Coach Doba and told him what I was going to do. There was nothing that he could say to change my mind, but I wanted to get their insight."

After making the decision to de-commit, Rutgers joined ASU as the most serious suitors for the defensive end's services. "Rutgers didn't offer me at the time, but it was a chance to go back to the east coast," said Vasquez. "Being out west, my family didn't get to see me that often. I was definitely interested in them, but Arizona State was the perfect place for me."

The fact that Coach Stretz was held over from the Koetter staff, cannot be underestimated in helping Vasquez eventually donning the maroon and gold. Through time the Sun Devil defensive line coach had developed a solid relationship with Vasquez which obviously just added to his comfort level with ASU. "When I told him that I was holding back from signing with Washington State, he said that I belong at Arizona State and that he was gonna talk to Coach Erickson. Next thing he gets rehired and I have an offer on the table."

Vasquez played his high school ball at Ledyard High School in Connecticut. It's undoubtedly one of the smaller recruiting grounds in the nation, and sometimes it does get tough to be discovered there by a big college program. "We have had some good athletes here – Dwight Freeney went to high school there," said Vasquez. "But usually it's hard to get noticed up there. After my sophomore year I got serious about football, I started lifting weights, get more focused on football and took advantage of the opportunity that was given to me."

Those efforts paid off. Vasquez was considered the best 2004 defensive prospect in the state and during his junior year was receiving serious attention from the likes of Purdue, Uconn, Syracuse, Michigan State, Virginia, and Maryland. "I had a slow combine and was kind of down the recruiting ladder," he recalled. "Purdue was the first to offer me. I took that offer right away so I could focus on my senior year."

Coming from a small town in Connecticut, even West Lafayette, Ind. seemed like a big city which possessed many distractions. Consequently, Vasquez's academics suffered during his only year with the Boilermakers. "It's a big school, 40,000 students, and I definitely took advantage of being on my own away from home," he explained." Unfortunately I made some bad decisions there academically and I had to leave."

At this point the defensive end was unsure which path he would take. Even though the junior college football scene in the northeast is scarce compared to other parts of the country, Vasquez was seriously entertaining the notion of attending a junior college in upstate New York. Then came the call from Arizona Western College.

Vasquez to this day doesn't know how the Yuma school was able to track him down cross-country, but he's naturally very happy that they did pursue him. "It was a hard decision to go there, but it also wasn't," he explained. "Leaving your family is always hard, but I knew that if I had to follow my dream – that's where I have to go. Yuma is an isolated place where you're forced to focus on your academics and athletics. There are not too many distractions, and coaches and players there are all motivated to make it to the D-I level."

The defensive end arrived at ASU in the spring semester, and spoke emphatically of the advantages of the early arrival and how it benefited him on and off the field. "You're just more acclimated to the whole scene and you can really get ready for spring ball," commented Vasquez. "When you do conditioning drills for a couple months, everything is repetitive and you feel comfortable that you know what you're doing."

Along with Vasquez three other in-state junior college players started their ASU career in the spring. "It's great coming in with Morris (Wooten), Jarrell (Holman) and Eric (Tanner)," he said. "I played against all of them, so we knew each other a little bit before we got here to ASU. Jarrell and I actually know each other real well, because he played one year at Arizona Western. We all have the same mind set and that's now we're at the D-I level we need to make something happen."

Like most JC transfers, Vasquez went through a steep learning curve in the beginning of spring practice. Nonetheless, he played very well in the team's last scrimmage and has improved significantly over the last few sessions. "I'm just very comfortable right now," he claimed. "A lot of the stuff I'm doing now is obviously different than the JUCO level, but I'm improving and getting more and more confident. Hopefully, I can be first string at the end of spring practice…no disrespect to anyone else, but I think I can be on the first team with my ability."

Confidence is often displayed with a swagger and boisterous attitude, attributes that have been a staple of the ASU defense this spring. "I really thrive in that attitude," said Vasquez. "I think defense wins championships, and I pride myself on playing good defense and being on a good defensive team. The first two weeks of spring the defense has been a little sluggish, but we really picked it up after that. We just have to keep it up and finish strong in the spring."

From Leyard, Conn. through West Lafayette and Yuma, and all the way to Tempe, Luis Vasquez has certainly taken the road less traveled to fulfill his dream of playing Division I football. There should be no doubt that he's not about to waste his time or his coaches', now that he will be displaying his talents at the highest level of competition he has played in so far.

"I'm laying it all the line," he stated. "After I left Purdue and went to Arizona Western a lot of people thought I wasn't gonna make it back to Division I. Not a lot of good players come out of Connecticut, but I know what I can do and what I can offer when given a chance."

Recruit Profile

Name

Luis Vasquez

High School/Junior College

Ledyard (Conn.) HS/Arizona Western

PositionDefensive End

Height

6-3

Weight

247

Date of Birth

04/24/86

Birthplace

San Diego, Calif.

Nickname

"Big Lou"

Favorite TV Show

"Family Guy"

Favorite Movie"

Top Gun"

Favorite Singer

"The Temptations"

Favorite Food

"Baked Macaroni and Cheese"

Favorite Drink

"Ice Tea"

Favorite Athlete

"Michael Jordan"

Favorite Pro Team

"New York Giants"

Person you most admire"

My father. Growing up he had to overcome a lot of things to get where he's at and if it wasn't for him I wouldn't be where I'm at today."

First Football Memory

"I was eight years old and I wanted to quit football. It was the first day in pads and we did a lot of running and I hate running. After a couple of years I was cool with it."

One Thing most people don't know about me"I can cook. I'm Chef Boyardee in the kitchen. I'll cook anything and everything."

Why did you choose ASU?

"Its location, its history, and what it had to offer academically and athletically."

Where do you want to be in ten years?

"Retired from the NFL having a nice little restaurant business going on. I think I would like to open a bar and grill family restaurant."


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