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A Moving Experience

Slighted at Granada Hills, Govea Has Family Relocate So He Can Play at Taft


WOODLAND HILLS — Kris Govea will confront his past Friday night. Nose to nose. Helmet to helmet. There will be collisions, and those bothersome bagpipes will be bleating in the background all the while.

A senior linebacker, Govea is Taft High's leading tackler and emotional leader. A year ago, he was a starter at Granada Hills.

Govea left the Highlanders last summer hurt, confused and desperate enough to convince his parents to move into the Taft attendance area. When the two West Valley League powers meet Friday, he will need no introduction.

"He was dedicated to football, but he wasn't dedicated to our team," said Robert Ortega, Granada Hills' senior running back and strong safety. "I was bitter when he left. I still want to be his friend, but I haven't talked to him in a long time."

A seemingly minor slight prompted Govea to leave behind his girlfriend (a Granada Hills junior), his sister (a Granada Hills cheerleader) and his loyalty.

Highlander coaches did not select Govea to attend a scouting combine last spring. He asked why. The coaches told him flat out: At 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, he was not a Division I prospect.

"At first I was glad they were honest with me," Govea said. "Then I thought about how much I wanted to be a college football player. It's all I ever wanted. I just really believe in myself."

A logical progression was triggered. He asked himself if he could play for coaches who did not share his belief.

Didn't they realize he was in the weight room or running the stands at Pierce College when everybody else was at the beach?

Didn't they know he rose every day at 5:30 a.m. to read the Bible and scour ESPN highlights for under 6-foot linebackers such as London Fletcher of the St. Louis Rams and Zach Thomas of the Miami Dolphins?

Couldn't these coaches see his heart about to burst through his chest?

Govea told his father he needed to be somewhere he would be appreciated, somewhere he would be recognized.

"Dad," he said, "I thought I would be 6-2, 230 pounds and everybody would want me. That's not the case. You always said that no man can tell me I can't do something. So I have to dig deep and get people to notice me."

Jim Govea thought it over. His son was asking to do the wrong thing for all the right reasons.

"If you hadn't worked as hard as we've seen you work, we wouldn't do this," he told him.

The Goveas knew several Taft players from youth football. They also knew quarterback Rick Clausen, running back Lee Marks and receivers Chris Morgan and Steve Smith are Division I prospects.

At that point their logic gave way to wishful thinking. Govea concluded that college recruiters would recognize him lining up alongside Morgan, et al, and love what they saw.

It hasn't happened.

Govea is the glue holding the Toreador defense together. Nobody plays with more passion and nobody finds the football better. He's up to nearly 200 pounds, but he's 5-10 and not fast enough to convert to defensive back at a major college.

Logic and wishful thinking led to an ironic conclusion. Rather than give Govea a doorway to Division I, Taft provided perspective. Coach Troy Starr played at Division III power Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, and he offered Govea some insight.

"I would have loved to have played for Ohio State," Starr told him. "But there comes a point in time you need to be realistic. Small colleges are full of guys like you, great football players who are an inch too short or a step too slow for Division I."

Letting go of a dream is as difficult for Govea as letting a ballcarrier shake a tackle. But he's accepting reality, even if he had to change schools to do it.

"USC is where I always wanted to play, but if a small school wants me, I'll take the scholarship," Govea said. "I know I'd get an education."

The cost of Govea's lesson is substantial. His best friends at Granada Hills, linebackers Josh Rivas and Guillermo Garcia, barely speak to him. He doesn't see his girlfriend every day. His sister has heard unkind words.

"I don't think it would be right for everybody to transfer," Govea said. "There are a lot of consequences. Moving into a whole different environment, it's not easy."

Although Granada Hills coaches say Govea is the first Highlander starter to leave in several years, he is hardly alone.

This year Taft had Clausen come in from Alemany and receiver Greig Carlson leave for Palisades. Defensive back and receiver Bryan Wilson came to Granada Hills from Alemany.

"Kids come and go, you gain them and you lose them," Starr said. "That's the real world."

It won't get any more real for Govea than on Friday night.

"People view me as a traitor, but maybe one person's situation is right for him but not for someone else," Govea said. "I have no bad feelings for the coaches at Granada Hills. They taught me valuable things.

"It's gonna be an emotional game. We'll play hard for four quarters and afterward I'll shake hands, hug and tell them we're still boys."




Friday, 7:30

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