Eastlake High School is quickly earning a reputation as a football factory, at least for American-style football.
Twitter posts by Titan alumni are flooding the Internet and cellular airwaves with feats of greatness by recent EHS graduates.
Tony Jefferson, a 2010 grad, is now playing for the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League after turning in a star-studded three-year career at Oklahoma University.
Meanwhile, Aaron Baltazar, a 2013 EHS grad who played a key role in Eastlake’s 2012 San Diego Section Division I championship season, suited up as a true freshman running back for Boise State University at the NCAA Division I level this past season. Boise State participated in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24 to cap Baltazar’s first college pigskin campaign.
Baltazar put up pro-type numbers his senior year at EHS with more than 1,800 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns.
Jefferson, a defensive back, received his first NFL start in the Cardinals’ 25-21 win over the Detroit Lions on Sept. 15. He made three tackles in the game, including one for a loss. He put one hit on former Helix High School standout and 2005 Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush that caught the attention of national media.
Despite exceling on the field at Oklahoma with trips to three bowl games, Jefferson elected to forgo his season with the Sooners to apply for the 2013 NFL Draft. Surprisingly, he went undrafted but signed with Arizona as a free agent, hoping to prove to all the NFL teams that passed on him that he is, in fact, bona fide NFL material.
EHS head football coach John McFadden continues to hold both Jefferson and Baltazar in his highest esteem as the two players who continue to define the standard for the Titan program.
“I am very proud of both of them; they are representing Eastlake football in the best way possible,” he said succinctly.
Another Titan alum, Marcus Perry, was invited to try out for the Indianapolis Colts after earning a reputation as one of the nation’s top long-snappers during his four years at Oregon State.
Jefferson certainly has not lost track of his time spent as a Titan and made a point of attending Eastlake’s home game against emerging Metro-Mesa League rival Olympian on Nov. 1 during the Cardinals bye week.
Perhaps it was Jefferson’s presence that spurred the Titans to a 51-0 victory and the league championship title. He clearly placed his stamp of approval on the 2013 Titan squad.
“It’s great to be back home and it’s great to see the new and upcoming stars and talk to them,” said Jefferson, the catalyst of Eastlake’s history-making 2009 San Diego Section Division I championship team. “They could be one of the best teams in school history.”
Senior running back/cornerback Isiah Olave and senior inside linebacker Keifer Graham were two of the main catalysts for the team’s success in 2013. Olave earned recognition as the Metro-Mesa League Offensive Player of the Year while Graham earned honors as the league’s defensive player of the year.
Olave also was a finalist for KUSI-TV’s 2013 Silver Pigskin Award — emblematic of the best high school football player in the San Diego Section.
Because of his size and prolific two-way playing ability, Olave is listed among the section’s top college recruits this season. He has until April 1 to make a decision on which college he will sign with. The initial signing date starts Feb. 5.
So far, he has been leaning toward the University of Idaho, UNLV and Utah State, but that can always change, he said.
Olave said he is stressing academic avenues in narrowing his search.
“I’m looking at education first,” he said. “Being able to play would be nice but it’s not a factor. I’d like to stay on the West Coast. I can play offense, but I like defense, too.”
McFadden has no doubt that Olave, who racked up 21 touchdowns during the 2013 prep season, will succeed at the next level.
“I think definitely he’ll draw some interest — he’s one of the best players Eastlake has ever seen,” McFadden said. “He’s the type of player who is able to learn a system fast. He knows more than some pro players have taken two years to learn.”
Jefferson had a chance to meet the current Titans during his homecoming visit and was particularly interested in meeting the Eastlake player who is now wearing his former No. 1 jersey number. That would be sophomore running back Traylon Reed, no doubt one of the team’s future top college recruits.
“It’s great to see the legacy is still going,” Jefferson said, smiling.