"Last year, we were a very, very young team, junior-dominated, with a couple of sophomores and seniors," Vereen told The Bootleg in an exclusive interview this week. "We came within a game of the CIF Finals, and we lost to Moorpark, a tough team, in a tough game. But being so junior-heavy, we have high expectations for ourselves going into this year."
Though Valencia came short in its quest for a CIF Title, Vereen's play did catch the eyes of college recruiters. In fact, Stanford thought enough of the 5'11", 175 cornerback to give him his first and, to-date, only college offer.
"They said I was instinctual, play off instinct very well," Vereen said of Stanford's coaches. "My athleticism, they liked too, and they kept stressing the long arms. I just would hope other players see me as a hard worker and someone they can follow."
Vereen, meanwhile, says the football skills he's proudest of are his instincts, speed, physicality and toughness. One of his biggest areas of focus this offseason will be in the weight room, where he hopes hard work can help him put on five pounds.
"I just think it would help me be more physical," he said.
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A school inherently takes a gamble any time it is first to offer a high-school athlete. Indeed, a program could play it safe, primarily offering players that multiple competitors have judged able to play football at a Division-I level. However, one upside of being first to offer is the opportunity to capture a player's undivided attention and build rapport – and that's exactly what sounds like has transpired with Stanford and Brock Vereen.
"I went to their Junior Day and loved it up there," Vereen said. "It was real great, incredible. The highlight was definitely the coaches, without a doubt. Their charisma is just incredible."
Before the Feb. 27 Junior Day, of course, Stanford first had to actually offer Vereen a scholarship. For Vereen, that process didn't lack for drama.
"My high school football coach called me into his classroom, told me to call this number and wouldn't tell me who it was," he said. "I thought it was my dad or something. It was Coach Harbaugh was on the phone, and he said they'd like to offer me a scholarship. I had gotten letters in the mail, but that was the first contact I had with the coaches."
Some recruits report not hearing from a school as frequently as they'd like, but Vereen says Stanford has done a great job of maintaining contact since initially proffering an offer.
"I've called [defensive back] coach White and just keep in touch," Vereen said. "Also, through the mail, they have a weekly newsletter that goes out to recruits. There's a little history about Stanford, a couple of quotes from Coach Harbaugh or someone at Stanford and, all in all, it presents the opportunity to go there and what you can be a part of."
For Stanford, meanwhile, one additional benefit of staying in touch with Vereen was convincing him to attend their February Junior Day. Vereen reports he enjoyed the entire weekend, but bonded with one player in particular.
"Pretty much all of my questions were answered by [rising sophomore running back] Delano Howell," Vereen said. "We grew up knowing each other, from same track program. When we were on Junior Day, he went around campus with me and we sat next to each other at the basketball game."
Though the basketball program struggled this past season en route to a ninth-place Pac-10 finish, Vereen and the fellow Junior Day visitors caught a good contest. Stanford rallied from a six-point second-half deficit to down USC, 75-63, in an effort Vereen deemed "intense." Stanford football fans, however, might be less impressed with the action on the court than the conversation in the stands, where Howell left Vereen with a lasting impression of The Farm.
"Of course, on Junior Day, everything seems so good, but he said everything is that good," Vereen said of Howell. "It's not too good to be true."
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Vereen also sees Stanford as a good potential fit for him on the field.
"They did mention they use a nickelback system, so there are three corners out there," he said. "And they play press-man, so you have to press and be very versatile."
Of course, Vereen ultimately will have to feel comfortable with a school as a whole, and not just on the field, before he commits. He explained to The Bootleg his priorities in his quest for the ideal college.
"I want to play on a team that's competitive, first off, of course," he said. "Education, of course, that's what's going to affect you in the long run, and location too. You're not going to playing football 100 percent of the time, after all."
Though no other schools have offered, Vereen says Washington, Cal, Nebraska and UNLV are among the programs sending him lots of mail. For his part, Vereen is making sure to keep an open mind and has yet to declare a favorite.
"I would say [I'm interested in] most of the Pac-10," he said. "At this point, I can't really say there's a top three or anything like that. I loved Stanford when I was up there. I'm heading to UNLV with my father, so I'm pretty interested in them too, and then UCLA, of course."
Interestingly, though he's focusing on the Pac-10 and lives on the West Coast, Vereen grew up rooting for a school from another region of the country entirely.
"Actually, I grew up a diehard Michigan fan," Vereen said. "I don't understand how I like them, but I love them."
Vereen may be in good company with his allegiance, what with Coach Jim Harbaugh becoming a household name while quarterbacking the Wolverines, and other invaluable Booties cheering on the Maize and Blue.
However, Brock Vereen also enjoys a more immediate connection to the college football world, as Pac-10 football fans will recognize Vereen's older brother, Cal running back Shane Vereen. Shane will be a redshirt sophomore next fall for the Bears, meaning that he and Brock could be teammates for two seasons, were Brock to go to Cal and Shane to stay at Berkeley for five years. Brock insists, however, that the opportunity to play with Shane isn't going to ultimately sway his choice of school.
"My brother had visited [Stanford] when he was recruited at Cal, and he loved it," the younger Vereen reports. "I remember he told me how much he liked it and so I had high expectations, but everything was great: the camp, the atmosphere. It felt comfortable.
"It would be a great opportunity, growing up together and everything, to end up together, but I wouldn't let that influence my decision. If I happen to go there and he's there, that's great. But -- though he's talking to me and guiding me, so he has influence -- being on his team doesn't influence me."
Brock Vereen is a two-sport athlete, competing in track in football's offseason. With a PR of 10.9 in the 100 meter-dash, Vereen has earned a spot on Valencia's 4x100 relay team, and he hopes the relay can place at the state level.
While his speed has earned him acclaim on the track, it's track that's actually slowing down Vereen's recruitment. With his focus on his running, Vereen is hesitant to begin narrowing in on a school until track season ends.
"As of right now, I'm mostly about track and focusing on track," he said. "When track season ends [in early June], I'll sit down and really think. I'm trying to wait too. Hopefully more offers come in – I'm not rushing anything."
In the meanwhile, Vereen is trying his best to keep his focus on his high school teams. He's working hard in track now, and, come fall, it'll be one final football season with Valencia High.
"Playing college football is great, but I'm definitely trying to stay humble and not forget I have a senior year of football too," he said.
As Vereen hears from more schools, enjoys his upcoming track and football seasons, and ultimately decides upon a school, The Bootleg will be there. Be sure to visit TheBootleg.com for all the latest.
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