A summer road trip to USC helped provide the inspirational fuel that Alex Tili and his Oxnard (Calif.) Hueneme teammates needed before the 2016-17 season.
It was on the Pac-12 campus where Tili and the Vikings not only did some team bonding at a football camp, but also linked up with a familiar Hueneme face -- former Trojan and former NFL wide receiver Keary Colbert.
“He talked to our team and told us how he worked hard when he was there, how he kept pushing his team and how he wanted us to do the same,” Tili said.
The former Hueneme receiver Colbert must be smiling at his prep alma mater now, because the 2018 running back prospect Tili and the Vikings have taken his advice, by changing the culture of Vikings football and turning a once laughingstock program into a winner again.
Tili has gone on a rushing rampage in his last 16 games, totaling 1,708 yards and 19 touchdowns through the ground game. His play has not only elevated his recruiting stock, but has helped resurrect a once downtrodden Viking program that had won just five games between 2012 and 2015, before this season’s fast 5-1 start.
Before this season’s Viking revival, Tili and his teammates were once ridiculed and mocked by their peers in Ventura County, all of whom looked down on the Hueneme football program and questioned if the school should even keep football on campus.
Tili and his crew, however, kept the shoulder pads on and pounded away.
“There were a lot of people doubting us, putting us down, saying how we couldn’t do it. But we fought through it and overcame the doubters,” Tili said. “It (the doubters) inspired me to work harder and help my team as much as I can, plus win games and change this program.”
He’s abided to the rules and expectations that third-year head coach Lui Toilolo has implemented for the Vikings. One thing that Toilolo has tossed out? Viking players having the attitude of waiting on the running clock to help end their loss.
“So far he’s been a good coach. He always makes us work hard and stay humble. He also makes sure we don’t get in over our heads,” Tili said.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Tili doubles as a slasher and inside threat. He’ll not only rely on juke moves and cutbacks to evade defenders, but also trusts his shoulders and low pad level to overpower defenders. He likes watching one former Super Bowl champion running back to help with his running approach: Marshawn Lynch.
“I like the way he runs. I also like his foot work and how he reads the holes and break tackles,” Tili said.
As of now, Northern Arizona is the first college to send Tili a letter. He’s hoping that down the road, he’ll land at one of the nearby Pac-12 schools: UCLA or Colbert’s alma mater.
“He can probably help me get there (at USC),” Tili said with a smile.