Signing party: Three Honkers flying to the next level
The football player who needed to get over himself and into his homework made a promise his freshman year. It was a pact discussed, tested and thought about over-and-over after Raul Lozano told his parents he'd carry the torch for the family.
"I will be the first to go to college," the Yuba City High senior recalled saying.
And he is, on a scholarship to continue playing the game he loves.
Lozano, along with teammates Taylor Rowe and Josh Wallace celebrated signing national letters of intent to four-year colleges on Friday inside Honker Gym — a first for the football program in a half-decade.
While the 12:30 p.m., lunchtime signing ceremony has become a Yuba City staple for players representing baseball, basketball and the like, it's been five years since "somebody from Y.C. has gotten any money from a school for football," coach John Ithurburn said.
For 2011, there's three who will advance to NAIA-level schools.
It wasn't easy, either. Each of the seniors, who wore college apparel and celebrated with proud parents and pizza, overcame issues of immaturity and ego to reach a scholarship-level plateau.
Lozano, the Honkers' mobile quarterback, will be playing wide receiver next year at Iowa Wesleyan. To reach a point where he could strut around campus in his purple, black and white "Lions" jersey, he endured struggles with studies and ego that nearly sank his promise.
That's why he credited a legion of people who helped make his vow valid.
He mentioned Ithurburn, as did his other two teammates for dissolving issues of immaturity. He thanked his teammates for telling him to think about a bigger picture. And he praised his parents, Raul and Marlo. They opened up lines of communication with teachers, because there is no football without grade checks.
Rowe, a former Appeal-Democrat All-Area offensive player of the year, used to spend each day in Ithurburn's office having conversations with the coach. He transformed from being an underclassmen with airs to the "coaches dream" he is today, Ithurburn said.
A dominant rusher with 3,187 yards and 36 touchdowns over the last two seasons, Rowe will start next year at running back for Montana Tech, he said.
Wallace will shake his head when reminded of his sophomore year, one full defining moments that made him "a typical immature sophomore," his coach said. And that was just in PE class. In the weight room, he slacked until becoming envious of his teammates, their names climbing above his on the lifting charts in the field house.
"They really pushed me to become a better athlete, a better person," said Wallace a future student at Southern Virginia.
A coach with scope beyond drawing up plays for his veer offense, Ithurburn stresses college and sees past the temporary triumphs of Friday night football. As a former UC Davis player, though, he knows the sport can be a vessel to a successful life — as he hopes it is for Lozano, Rowe and Wallace.
"It excites me as a coach that they're going to get an opportunity," he said. "I don't know if I would have continued college without football."