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High Schools | Eric Sondheimer

Fua Gets Ready to Be Courted

February 01, 2005|Eric Sondheimer

At the end of his heavyweight wrestling matches, Sione Fua of Encino Crespi comes under siege.

At least five of his smaller teammates jump on his back in a futile attempt to take him down.

Crespi's football coach, Troy Thomas, watches and smiles.

"He throws them off like they're not there," Thomas said.

Fua is Crespi's gentle giant, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound junior offensive tackle with a 4.0 grade-point average.

He will be the Celts' most recruited football player since safety Shaun Williams signed with UCLA in 1994 and went on to play for the New York Giants.

With high school seniors signing letters of intent Wednesday, Fua is already preparing for his signing moment in 2006.

He has been watching others go through the recruiting process and is taking steps to prepare for the onslaught.

"I just want to get information from people I know and do it the easiest and best way possible," he said.

There won't be any need to market Fua to college recruiters. He was the Del Rey League lineman of the year last season, when he did not give up a sack in helping Crespi win the Southern Section Division X championship. He bench-presses 330 pounds and expects to lift 400 pounds by the fall.

His Tongan ancestry has helped shape his character, which is second to none, according to his coaches.

He has been playing football for only three years, so he has room for improvement even though he has outplayed some linemen who have already received college scholarships.

"This kid has such an upside," Thomas said. "He's just learning the game. The jump from last year was huge, and we believe this year is going to be as big or bigger."

Fua is inexperienced in the recruiting game, but he and other top juniors are about to find themselves deeply engaged. He has been receiving the usual letters from schools, but the recruiting starts to pick up almost immediately.

College coaches, while focused on seniors these last couple of weeks, have been dropping by high schools to evaluate juniors. Soon, the elite players could be receiving written scholarship offers.

Coaches will do more evaluating in April and May. Combines will offer players the opportunity to have their speed and size confirmed before coaches and recruiting experts.

One of the most important decisions for a player is what camp he should attend in the summer. College camps have become crucial in the recruiting process, allowing coaches to gain up-close access to players. Many times, scholarship offers will follow.

Parents and students interested in specific schools might want to take advantage of a new free website, college-athletic-scholarships.com, that lists contact information for almost every college athletic program in the nation.

It is recommended that high school juniors join the NCAA Clearinghouse this semester to make sure they are on track to complete the 14 core classes required to gain NCAA athletic eligibility.

Crespi offensive line coach Jeremiah Ross, a former Fresno State player, said all the forms a high school coach fills out on behalf of a player don't matter unless the player produces on the field.

"Your film is your resume," Ross said.

And Fua's resume keeps getting better with the help of his performances in wrestling. He won the heavyweight division at the Sam DeJohn Invitational at San Fernando two weeks ago.

"He's absolutely dominating," wrestling Coach Mike Odman said.

Added Fua: "It makes you mentally tough. It helps with hand fighting."

Fua doesn't know which college he'll select, because he's waiting to see which ones are serious about recruiting him.

"It seems pretty simple and not complicated," he said.

Of course, it gets far more complicated when he starts visiting schools.

"The hardest part will probably be making a decision," he said. "It will come down to the best football school, but I want to get a good education. I'll probably start looking at rosters and where I can fit in."

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Eric Sondheimer can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com.

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