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Players weigh in on how coronavirus has stalled football recruiting in Sacramento



Football fields, tracks and weight rooms are empty.

High school football programs across the state would normally spend this month and next engaged in after-school spring team conditioning drills. Workouts are now done online amid the coronavirus concern as social distancing is crucial to helping quell the disease, to the point that school campuses are closed for the remainder of the academic year.

Everyone feels the inconvenience of the pandemic, right on down to the gridiron prospects who run track to keep sharp and plot recruiting trips as soon-to-be seniors. What’s more, an NCAA-mandated dead period has put things on pause on all fronts, significantly altering the recruiting landscape. There is no on- or off-campus recruiting allowed through May 31, at least.

The Sacramento area’s most-recruited football players heading into the fall season are Monterey Trail receiver/defensive back Prophet Brown and Folsom quarterback Ari Patu. Both have received a boatload of full scholarship offers, including from Stanford, which tells you what sort of student they are to go with their athletic skills.

Brown is a speed burner, a member of his school’s victorious 400 meter relay team that won the CIF State championship last May. All spring sports have been canceled. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Brown was the hard-to-cover receiver for the Mustangs during the 2019 season, and he played a role in a historic upset of Folsom in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs and did his part to keep his team in it to the finish in the driving rain against Oak Ridge in the finals.

Brown’s scholarship football offers include those from the Pac-12, Michigan, Oklahoma and Notre Dame. That excitement is matched by his disappointment of a lost spring.

“It’s been really hard for all of us, but we’re doing the best we can,” Brown said. “I go to the park by my house to run, or the yard. I try to do agility work. My little brother (Joshua) joins me. He’s going to be better than me someday.”

The 6-4, 185-pound Patu only started a handful of games as Folsom’s signal caller in 2019, but he showed enough, and his grades are strong enough, to generate a flood of recruiting interest. Patu has scholarship offers from throughout the Pac-12; his East Coast options include Georgia Tech, Miami, Michigan State and Duke, among others.

Like Brown, Patu is embracing patience. Neither student athlete ignores the impact of the coronavirus, and neither is complaining. But yeah, they miss their classmates and football running mates.

“Everything, from weights to small social interactions with the guys, I miss it all,” Patu said. “Normally, we’d be lifting and throwing on a daily basis. Of course, things have been slowed down, but we’re making sure to find time consistently to continue to build.”

He added, “I’ve been maintaining a mix of both throwing and strength workouts. We have a group chat with all of our guys where we coordinate workouts multiple times throughout the week, both throwing with our skill guys and early morning team conditioning as well.”

Brown said he is saddened by those who have lost their lives due to the coronavirus. He said everyone can do their role — at any age — to help prevent the spread. That means sheltering in as much as possible.

“For young people, it might not seem like a big deal, but when you look at the lives of young ones or the elderly or those with health problems, this becomes huge,” Patu said of the pandemic. “Trying to contain this spread, though, people are losing jobs, which is terrible. If we can find a way to support our local businesses while also helping contain the spread of the virus, I think we’ll put ourselves in a much better position as a society to come out of this stronger.”

Oak Ridge quarterback Justin Lamson earned Bee Player of the Year honors in 2019 for his impact on the program and the area. The surprise is he has just two scholarship offers. A stalled spring season has not helped his cause. Lamson is considered a more polished prospect at this age than Ian Book when he was at Oak Ridge. Book is now the star quarterback at Notre Dame.

Lamson had unofficial recruiting visits set for Montana State, San Jose State, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington State this spring. All were canceled. All Lamson can control now is his own conditioning and mindset.

“Right now staying in shape is pretty hard” Lamson said. “I also work out with my brother (Colton) in the house and do upper-body workouts. I also occasionally go run at Folsom Lake with the family.”

With gyms closed in California, athletes are also finding ways to get creative with their workouts. Whitney linebacker Austin Hauptman has been keeping a strict workout routine.

“Before all this started, I helped (my teammate Fisher Clements) move a squat rack, a bar, and some dumbbells to his house,” Hauptman said. “We try to keep (the workouts) to just me and him so were not exposed to as many germs.

“My day now consists of homework, push-ups, eating, working out and washing my hands and doing 100 more push-ups before I go to sleep. I usually have (Jordan Zumwalt) as my personal trainer but because of the coronavirus were not training to be safe.”

Jesuit receiver Nate Lewis has been offered a scholarship by Arizona State and planned to visit the campus this month. That trip has been canceled, but he understands why.

“I most definitely feel for the people getting sick because it’s affecting them and their families, which is sad,” Lewis said. “It definitely puts things into perspective because it shows you how serious this disease really is, considering how college football spring ball was also postponed. I’m missing football and I just want to get back to it and be able to grind every day.”

He speaks for thousands.


A closer look at the class of 2021 football recruits

Name: Prophet Brown

School: Monterey Trail

Position: WR/DB

Height/weight: 5-11, 185

Comment: Area’s most electrifying burner and a top student is the next top-flight recruit. Get him the ball!

Offers include: Michigan, Oregon, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Notre Dame, USC

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