Rico Fernandez, junior
As his time at Maria Carrillo comes to an end, senior Sam Atoe has decided that he will be taking his talents to San Diego. He has verbally committed the Aztecs of San Diego State University, who will be giving him a full ride scholarship. “I really feel like I can be successful, that I will be successful with football and academics,” said Atoe.
“I’ve had a lot of players with exceptional physical ability. I have also had players with competitive drive. I’ve also had a lot of players that can handle the adversities of competition. But it’s rare to have all of those qualities in one person,” said Maria Carrillo High School varsity football coach Jay Higgins, referring to Atoe.
The day Winter Break started was when Atoe went to San Diego for his official visit. University of Southern California was on top of Atoe’s list for a while, but the tipping factor in his decision was the coaching staff at SDSU. “I got a really good vibe,” Atoe said. “I felt like they really wanted me. Them wanting me was a sincere welcome.”
Atoe wanted to go to a winning program that would have a chance at going to a bowl game. SDSU went 9-4 and won their bowl game over Navy in 2010 in SDSU head coach Brady Hoke’s second year with the Aztecs. Even though Hoke left to coach at the University of Michigan, Atoe was not fazed, as he knew new head coach Rocky Long, who was previously defensive coordinator, had the head coaching experience and will be running the same defense. “It sucks not having the actual head coach that I met, but coach Long, he’s a great guy,” said Atoe. “I have faith in him.”
Atoe played multiple positions on the field at Maria Carrillo, but feels like he has more upside on the defensive side, even though offense comes naturally to him. No matter where he ends up, he plans to work hard and crack the starting lineup from day one. Atoe said. “I going to have to work my butt off every practice and every day. And if I want it, which I do, I’ll get that starting spot. If it’s not next year, it will be the next year, or the year after that.”
On January 15, Atoe played in the First Annual Polynesian All-American Classic at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles, a display of the best high school seniors in the country with Pacific Island heritage. “It was amazing,” said Atoe. “The whole experience was awesome. It was definitely a turning point in my life. I’m a lot closer to my culture. A lot more intereste