Hiram Johnson HS Overcoming The Odds

In the heart of California's state capital lies Hiram Johnson HS, and thanks to several scholar-athletes plus the leadership of coach Rick Redding, Hiram Johnson is making the most of its opportunities...

Hiram Johnson is an inner city high school in Sacramento.

Football might not be on the top of the local school boards priorities. The kids wear ragged/torn uniforms for practice. The challenges of providing an education to the students take precedent over the football program. Most of the kids will get their best, sometimes only, meals of the day at the high school via the free breakfast and lunch program. But as important as getting an education is, playing football adds another dimension to the character of these kids. I'm talking about discipline, honor, fortitude, perseverance, strength and camaraderie.

I'm going to talk about three athletes on the team that have proved themselves on the field as well as academically. Head coach Rick Redding doesn't post the teams stats online. He's old school. He believes it's a distraction for the team and I must agree. So you have to ask him for the stats or watch a game to evaluate the players yourself. I did both. Here are the players I picked with the concurrence of both the head coach and assistant coach Jeremy Arsich.

Junior Afoa, #40, is a fullback and line backer. He's a senior that stands 6-1 and weighs in at 220 lbs. In the schools' win against McCaltchy, Afoa was chosen as player of the game by the coaching staff. He had multiple tackles and an interception.

Afoa is quick and helps out defensively by pressuring the QB's. Junior Afoa averages roughly seven tackles per game. Junior had one interception that was returned 65 yards for a touchdown. He currently has a 3.5 grade point average. Afoa is interested in attending Cal, Oregon, or FSU.

The second scholar and outstanding athlete is #7 Chris Haskins. Chris is a 5-11 sophomore FB/DB weighing in at 180 pounds. Being only a Sophomore Chris has room to grow. Chris Haskins has 592 yards rushing in six games. He'll continue to fine tune his skills as he works towards his senior year.

Chris was on the national honor role as a freshmen last year and continues his academic prowess into his sophomore year. We'll track Chris's progress on the field this season. If he keeps his grades and level of play up Chris will start getting some serious D1 interest in the coming year.

Finally, but not least, we have the big man Curtis Dao # 66 on the OL/DL. Out of all the kids I've interviewed the past few years he's definitely a standout. Curtis at 6-4 tall and 285 pounds is not your average scholar athlete. Curtis Dao has 26 pancake blocks and 42 4-second blocks in six games. He's a 4.0 student with an 1800 SAT score. I've watched him play two different games and he definitely is a player to watch. He's the kind of kid who does his part on the field, regardless of the score, and does it very well. He plays unselfishly and is rewarded on the field in his tackles/hits.

I asked Curtis what does he like about his playing football at Hiram Johnson H.S. . He answered me very eloquently for a player of his stature. Dao said "I love my school, the love of the game.. grades come easy for me. Football gives me a chance for self improvement – the physical part, so we can see what we're made of out on the field. Also, the diversity on the field .. we have every race playing football at my school.. It's a lesson for life .. that we can all come together for a common goal.. Do what you got .. They are all my brothers.. friends for life". Curtis also said "on the playing field everything is even between schools – bring what you got". It doesn't matter what walk of life you come from on the field, you're going to get hit, and if Curtis is on the field he'll probably be doing the hitting.

Curtis has been contacted by Yale, UC Davis, and Portland State, amongst others, making him a legit D1 prospect. Curtis is the real deal. He's a great Scholar Athlete at one of the toughest schools in Northern California – earning this Scout's respect and admiration.

Here's what head Coach Redding had to say about these 3 players:

"Junior Afoa is a senior transfer. He has been a welcomed addition to our program. His best asset has been his leadership.

Chris Haskins is a sophomore playing varsity. He has done a good job running the ball. We feel like he has the potential to be a blue chip college prospect in 2 years. He also has a 3.5 grade point average.

Curtis Dao is a fine young man. Curtis has a 4.0 grade point average and has the potential to play at the next level. Curtis is 6-4 and weighs 285 lbs. You just can't coach that kind of size. Great leadership qualities.

Curtis has received some interest from college recruiters. All of the aforementioned colleges have been on campus and Curtis has spoken to them. We have sent some film of Curtis to these schools but have not heard anything from them as of yet. Curtis biggest assets are his size, work ethic, grades, and leadership. The one glaring thing that Curtis need to work on is his footwork. That will be crucial for him in the off season. "

In closing though I must give props to the coaching staff. They've got a difficult job with scant resources to do it. At the end of a recent game the coaches gathered the team after a win. The coach talked about the game but also something else very important. The coach talked about the teams' role in the community. For the players to carry themselves with dignity and to be role models for others.

Whether your school is in an affluent neighborhood or the poorest, the Grid Iron brings out the best in all of us. Win or lose, at the end of a game, two teams shake each others hands and part ways until next time…. all for, as Cutis Dao said so passionately, " The Love of the Game".

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