Cerritos (Calif.) Junior College defensive tackle Dillon Faamatau is getting more than just a second chance.
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound lineman signed with Arizona State in 2015 as a two-time 1st Team All-CIF and 1st Team All-Suburban League selection. After redshirting, Faamatau transferred to Cerritos Junior College last year where he had 32 tackles and one sack in 10 games.
Doubting that he would get another shot to play D-I football, Faamatau got a message from USC recruiting coordinator Johnny Nansen.
“After the whole Arizona State thing, I came back home and my mental state was messed up,” said Faamatau. “I felt like other D-I programs would look at me and think that I couldn’t be true to my word — that I couldn’t stick it out at a D-I program.
“That was going through my head day and night. Then Coach Nansen came along. Hearing from him brought a sense of comfort because I remembered him from out of high school. I actually got an offer from USC out of high school, but it was on Feb. 1, just a few days before signing day.
“That had bad idea written all over it. I felt it was too late to switch from ASU. That was my mistake, though. I should have grabbed that offer when I had the chance. But Coach Nansen stayed on me after I got to Cerritos and made sure I was focused in the classroom. He was on me to do everything I could to get my AA, so I could get back to the D-I level. That brought back some hope.
“About a week ago, he told me he and Coach Helton were going to give me a call. That was about three to five days ago. I had the jitters all over again. It was like when I was back in high school.
“Getting the offer... man, I was full of excitement. My family was really happy because I’m closer to them now. SC is the home school, which about a 15-minute drive instead of a five-hour drive.”
If Faamatau plays for Cerritos this season, he will enroll at USC in December with two years of eligibility to play two years of football. However, there is a chance he could transfer in before that.
“Coach Nansen and my councilors have been talking about what I need to transfer to USC,” said Faamatau. “I’m about two or three credits behind right now, but I might be able to get another class in and push my transfer to this summer.
“If I can’t get in by June, I’ll enroll in December.”
A summer transfer would give Faamatau three years of eligibility to play three. He did have a 3.9 GPA out of Norwalk High School as a recruit, so Faamatau is optimistic he can handle the extra workload.
Another question might revolve around where Faamatau plays at USC. As a Sun Devil, he played both offensive and defensive line positions on the ASU scout team.
“I went to a couple of spring practices at USC, and their defense varies from a 4-2-5 to a 3-4,” said Faamatau. “Coach Helton and Coach Nansen both told me I can be a solid nose tackle for them in that defense.
“Right now, they only have Marlon (Tuipolutu) and Josh Fatu rotating at that position. You can’t really go a whole game with just two guys rotating in and out, so that’s the position they want me at.”
Getting back home was a big factor for Faamatau, but having been recruited by the Trojans out of high school, his scholarship offer means more than just a cure for homesickness.
“Who wouldn’t want to be a Trojan when you’re from Southern California,” asked Faamatau rhetorically. “USC is like family.
“I see guys who I knew growing up, like Rey Maualuga and Juju Smith. Rey used to live up the street from my aunties house. I used to go to the same park and play ball that Juju went to. Those guys are in the league now, which is crazy.”
Faamatau is all USC at present date, but if his recruitment is extended past this summer, there are other schools who are in contact with him.
“Louisville, Colorado and maybe Utah are schools that could offer me,” said Faamatau. “Now that I'm committed to USC, I think they’re going to probably come after me and pull the trigger on an offer.
“Right now, USC is the only offer I have, and they are one of the biggest schools out there. Thing is, I could see schools trying to come in if they think I can get out by the end of June instead of waiting for me in December.
“If any of those schools offer me, I could visit. The Colorado coach was trying to get me out there. He said the campus was voted one of the best looking in the country. So if they offer, I wouldn’t mind go out there to check it out.”