Yuba's AJ Paul lands with UC Davis
Paul ready to join Aggies
When A.J. Paul first arrived at Yuba College three years ago, earning a Division-I scholarship to play football was something of a dream.
As a student at Marysville High, academics weren't necessarily at the top of his priority list. However, that all changed once he stepped foot on the Linda campus.
"I had a 2.0 and barely graduated high school, but I buckled down once I got to Yuba," Paul said. "I knew if I didn't get my grades together, I wouldn't go anywhere to play football."
Buckle down is exactly what he did, and now, his dream has become a reality.
After receiving offers from several universities across the country, the former Indian and 49er standout decided to stay closer to home to continue his football career, earning a full-ride scholarship to play offensive line at UC Davis next season.
Paul, a two-time All-Bay Valley Conference selection and all-state performer for the 49ers last fall, had a slew of Division-I schools asking for his services including Connecticut, Fresno State, Nevada, Washington State, Memphis, Southern Miss and Texas State.
He even flew out to Storrs, Conn., in December to visit UConn's campus where he saw the East Coast for the first time, a trip he never thought he would experience.
But after a whirlwind tour and several letters from colleges, Paul felt the best fit was with the Aggies.
"I had some pretty good looks, but Davis was the best overall decision as far as the big picture," said Paul, who started school in January and is majoring in agriculture. "I was looking for a scholarship for school — not the level of play. I wanted to be comfortable, and I'm pretty comfortable here."
The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Paul was also a two-time Golden Empire League selection during his time at Marysville High, and played a key role in leading the Indians to their only Sac-Joaquin Section title in the fall of 2008. He was also an Appeal-Democrat All-Area first-team pick at defensive tackle during his senior year in 2009.
Additionally, Paul excelled in track and field, and was crowned GEL champion in the shot put twice during his time at Marysville. He earned a trip to the state finals last year at Yuba.
"The whole thing about him is his work ethic. All you have to see is where he is now and he worked his fanny off to get here," Yuba coach Ted Hoal said. "He's a sponge, too. Whenever the NFL guys came around, he absorbed everything they had to say. He really wanted to be taught, he's focused and he knows what he wants."
Paul thanked the entire coaching staff at Yuba and his family for helping him get to this point. He's elated for the chance to play close to home while earning a top-notch education.
"I was hoping to play for an NAIA or Division-II school," he said, "I never thought I would end up here.
"Getting accepted to UC Davis is pretty big to me."
CONTACT Andy Arrenquin at aarrenquin@appealdemocrat. com or 749-4790. Find him on Facebook at advarsitysports or on Twitter at @ADaarrenquin