For reasons unknown to him now, Carson High linebacker Arnold Ale wanted nothing better than to leave Southern California to attend college.
Maybe it was the lure of a glamorous university. Maybe he was just bored with the neighborhood.
Whatever it was, Ale has a new-found appreciation for his hometown after taking football recruiting trips to Alabama, Nebraska and Notre Dame.
"It's not so bad here," he said. "I never really thought about all the opportunities USC and UCLA have to offer. For some reason, I wanted to leave real bad. Now, it's different."
Ale came to this realization after experiencing some inclement weather on his out-of-state visits. He says it was 28 degrees at Alabama, 30 degrees at Nebraska and 20 degrees at Notre Dame, where he saw snow for the first time.
Although Ale says weather won't be a factor when he announces his college choice--Wednesday is the first day prep seniors can sign letters of intent--he acknowledges that sunny Los Angeles is looking better.
The senior, rated the seventh-best prospect in the Far West by Super Prep magazine and named The Times South Bay Lineman of the Year, visited UCLA last weekend and will take his final recruiting trip this weekend to USC.
He is still considering Alabama, Nebraska and Notre Dame, but his visits to those schools left him cold.
"Man, oh man. I was freezing my ears off," said Ale, recalling his visit to Notre Dame two weeks ago. "It was a nice experience going to places I've never been and never seen, but it's nice to be back."
Ale is one of eight players from Carson's L. A. City 4-A runner-up team who might sign with four-year colleges. Banning ranks second in the South Bay with six.
Ale says the recruiting process is more hectic than he remembers from three years ago when his brother, Leroy, an ex-Carson linebacker, signed with Oregon.
"It's constant pressure," he said. "I haven't had time to myself. I've never seen anything like this before. I'm not used to all this attention."
Last Thursday, Alabama Coach Bill Curry visited Ale and Carson teammates Charles Gardner and Bryan Reeves in their homes, all on the same night. Reeves, an All-City wide receiver, has since dropped the Crimson Tide from consideration.
Gardner, an All-City safety and the No. 35-rated prospect in the Far West by Super Prep, has narrowed his choices to Michigan, Alabama, USC and UCLA. He left Wednesday for Michigan, his final recruiting trip.
"We usually have between five and 10 kids sign," said Carson Coach Gene Vollnogle. "This looks like a good year for us. We've had a lot of kids pass the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test)."
Under NCAA rules, a high school senior must score a passing grade on the SAT or ACT (American College Test) and carry a qualifying grade-point average to be eligible for college athletics.
Several area players are waiting for SAT results, including Reeves and wide receiver Travis Hannah of Hawthorne. Hannah, one of the state's top sprinters from 100 to 400 meters, visited USC last weekend.
"I think USC is the best school for me," Hannah said. "They said I could play football and run track. I'm just waiting for my test results now."
Nine area players have made non-binding verbal commitments.
Gardena wide receiver Damon Mack, an All-City selection as a junior who was sidelined most of last season with a separated shoulder, has verbally committed to Washington. He chose the Huskies over UCLA and Miami.
"I was happy with my visit and the coaching staff at Washington," said Mack, who will undergo surgery on his left shoulder in March. "It was just a matter of choice."
Serra teammates Eric Hamilton and Deon Figures said they are going as a "package deal" to Colorado. Hamilton, an option quarterback, and Figures, a defensive back, picked the Buffaloes over Washington.
"To tell you the truth, I like Washington," Hamilton said. "But I'm going to get a chance to play earlier at Colorado. I can do more for the school."
Banning recruiting coordinator John Becker, a school counselor, said four Pilots have given verbal commitments--running back Zach Davis (Oregon State), offensive lineman Lee Ghio (Pacific), defensive end
Mike Alexander (Arizona State) and defensive back Andrew Buggs (Iowa State).
Carson wide receiver John Lark (Washington State) and Palos Verdes offensive lineman Pat Fresch (Arizona State) have also announced their college choices.
Banning players who have yet to commit are defensive back Ruben Moncito and defensive tackle Titus Tuiasosopo, the Pilots' most sought-after player. Tuiasosopo has narrowed his choices to USC, Arizona State, San Diego State and Hawaii, according to Becker.
"It just depends on who comes the hardest," Tuiasosopo said. "I want to contribute right away. I have no intentions of red-shirting."
All-City quarterback George Malauulu of Carson says he wants to play both football and baseball in college. That might put Colorado, which doesn't have baseball, at a disadvantage with the other schools he is considering, Arizona and Hawaii.