PALMDALE — For participants, a summer football all-star game is a last chance to shine in front of friends and family, play with longtime teammates and make memories.
But for five recent graduates from Palmdale High, playing for the south in the High Desert all-star game tonight at 7:30 at Palmdale is merely the start of things to come.
Jason Anderson, Shaun Perez, Steve Anderson, Horacio Diaz and Imad Rodriguez--who last fall helped Palmdale win its first Golden League championship since 1965--have signed to play football at Langston University, an NAIA school in Langston, Okla.
"The chances of all of us going to the same college are pretty slim," said Steve Anderson, a cornerback. "But we thought about how nice it would be to stay together."
Several Golden League coaches could not recall one school sending so many players to a college program, other than to a junior college. All five Palmdale players are receiving some sort of scholarship.
"It's a coincidence," said Rodriguez, a safety who didn't sign his letter of intent until June 10, graduation day. "But I would have gone [to Langston] regardless because everything is free."
The five Palmdale players were introduced to Langston by recruiting coordinator James Harding, who was Palmdale's line coach from 1991-1993.
Palmdale Coach Jeff Williams said Harding informed him Langston officials have plans for the football program to move up to the NCAA Division II level, creating a need to recruit talented players.
Williams said he had plenty.
"We put out a good product," he said. "And since we were graduating 33 guys, [Harding] came out to have a look."
Jason Anderson was the most heavily recruited of the group. The Golden League's top running back, he rushed for 1,304 yards and nine touchdowns last season.
Some schools in the Pacific 10 and Big West conferences expressed interest in Anderson, who envisioned playing at a major college. But he didn't qualify academically.
"[Signing with Langston] was a difficult decision," he said. "But I didn't pass my SAT. My other option was to go to a JC and then try and transfer out to a Division I school.
"But I don't know, I'll probably stay at Langston all four years."
Steve Anderson and Diaz were the first to sign letters of intent, and Jason Anderson said that made his decision easier.
"Our team was pretty close, like a family when it comes to football," Jason Anderson said.
"It's going to be good because we aren't going to be there by ourselves."
Perez played alongside Jason Anderson at fullback. He rushed for 795 yards and nine touchdowns and opened numerous holes for Anderson's big gains.
He hopes to do the same in college.
"Oh, yeah," he said, smiling. "Me and Jason in the same backfield again, that would be good."
Though Rodriguez and Steve Anderson have family living near Langston, none of the Palmdale players have been to Oklahoma.
"Some of my friends are teasing me," Jason Anderson said. "They say I'm going to be coming back talking country."
Williams believes Langston will be a good fit for all five players.
"I know they'll be able to play
there," Williams said. "They all work real well together and they have proven that they can be successful. It's a real smart move for them to go together."
From a coaching standpoint, Williams said getting five players from the same program is a coach's dream.
"You overcome one hurdle right away," Williams said. "That's getting the kids to trust each other. These guys all know each other real well."
But Jason Anderson, Diaz, Rodriguez, Perez and Steve Anderson are not thinking in coaching terms, or about adjusting to life in a city with a population of 1,500 located about 35 miles northeast of Oklahoma City.
They are not worried about attending a small college or playing for a NAIA program.
They are merely happy their football careers will continue.
"It's somewhere to play," Steve Anderson said. "I love football, anything that has to do with football."