First-year Servite head coach Troy Thomas has several players from his 2005 Serra League Champion team that will play Division I football, but Notre Dame has their sites set on one of his playmakers, linebacker Chris Gallipo.
"What most guys say is that he's big and fast, but the thing that separates him from most guys that are getting recruited at the Division I level is that he has a very strong character," coach Thomas said of his standout linebacker. "He's a really hard worker. He gets great grades and he's very well respected in our community. Obviously he's respected on the field because of what he does, but he's a well-respected guy off of the field, and I think that's what going to separate him at the next level."
"He's a strong guy, a fast guy that can hit people," Thomas continued. "He came in to our school with a lot of hype behind him. People thought he'd come in and do special things, and he has, but treats the young guys with a lot of respect and he wants them to be as successful as he is. He has a lot of respect for the ninth and tenth graders. He's willing to take younger guys under his wing and so many younger guys look up to him.
"He doesn't want it to be Chris Gallipo's defense. He wants it to be Servite's defense. He does the same things for the school. He's just a fun guy to be around. A lot of people are drawn to him. He's very enthusiastic about everything about our school, not just about football. He's a well-rounded guy."
Thomas understands what it takes to be successful at the next level; he coached at the University of Hawaii and at Fresno State. Because of his experience he is able to identify a player that is capable of playing at a Division I school.
"Some of these guys in high school, you can tell that they are done developing and he's not even close," coach Thomas said of Gallipo's potential. "He's a strong guy and a fast guy. He's not really muscular yet and he's 6-2, 230-pounds. He's really fast for a linebacker, and he's making plays against good football teams. He's going to be 240 pounds by the start of next season and he'll be a lot bigger and stronger.
"He's very good off the edge for us," Thomas commented. "We do blitz him off the edge at times because he's so explosive off the ball. I think he blocked three or four punts for us this year. So he's a guy that can put his hand down, come off the ball and accelerate. I think he could play a number of positions."
"I think he had 22 catches for us in a spread offense with four wide receivers," Thomas said of his Gallipo's offensive stats. "If he were in a traditional offense he'd be a tight end. He's got great hands. I don't know where he's going to end up, but I do know that he's athletic enough to play at that next level.
"He's the real deal. He's just going to get better. He improved so much this year. He started as a sophomore. He was all-Serra league as a sophomore, which is pretty rare. He was the defensive MVP in our league this year as a junior. He was our leading tackler by about 50 tackles. He had 17 tackles in the (Long Beach) Poly game. He averaged 14 tackles a game, so he had around 150 tackles for the season.
"What is interesting is that for a linebacker he has the knack for blocking punts," Thomas said of Galliop's prowess for making big plays on special teams. "He's blocked four punts and he blocked three PATs--he blocks them and then he recovers them. He blocked one and scooped it up against St. John Bosco."
Those plays aren't going unnoticed by college recruiters as Thomas has had several of the top programs stop in to inquire about Gallipo.
"Notre Dame was here today," Thomas replied when asked what schools were recruiting Gallipo. "They've been here twice now. They had a short highlight tape and he came back and he wanted game film. They really like him. Coach Polian was here.
"USC came through," he continued "Coach Carroll has been on campus this spring and they've been in contact with him. Arizona was here the other day. He's getting letters from everybody. He's going to get recruited by the PAC-10 for sure. UCLA is very, very high on him. They've been through a couple times.
"He's a kid that's open to anything. He's such a neat kid. He really wants to explore his options," Thomas added..