Armond Armstead stopped by familiar turf Friday night in Elk Grove, his grin and good cheer the only things more striking than his 6-foot-5, 290-pound frame.
Freshly signed by the New England Patriots, the defensive tackle embraced teachers and coaches at Pleasant Grove High School. He waved to family friends and alumni. Mostly, Armstead leaned against the baseline wall in the crowded gym because there were no available seats and it was an attempt to stop his head from spinning.
Armstead's story has been well chronicled. He starred at USC and was projected by scouts as an NFL first-round draft pick. Armstead's draft hopes, however, were squashed when he suffered a heart attack. Viewed as a risk and damaged goods despite a battery of tests giving him a clean bill of health, he went undrafted. Armstead last August sued USC, claiming he was recklessly administered painkilling injections that, his doctors say, caused the heart attack.
Armstead had a productive season in the Canadian Football League this fall for the Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts. More than 15 NFL teams inquired about bringing in Armstead for a workout, and he signed a three-year deal with the Patriots. After his Elk Grove visit, he reported to the Patriots on Sunday.
Armstead has been instructed by his new bosses not to discuss his NFL status. He did offer this: "I'm doing great."
Argonauts general manager Jim Barker told ESPNBoston.com the Patriots landed the equivalent of a top pick: "I don't think it's very often that an NFL team can get a first-round pick without using a first-round pick."
Jesuit lineman picks Dartmouth
Jesuit High offensive lineman Garrett Strohmaier has verbally committed to Dartmouth of the Ivy League.
Strohmaier is an honors student who said he appreciated the academic and football tradition of Dartmouth, never mind all the snow in Hanover, N.H., at this time of year.
Prep hazing fallout
St. Patrick/St. Vincent High in Vallejo terminated football coach Chris Cerbone and expelled five players for a sexual hazing incident on younger players last fall. Cerbone reported the hazing but was dismissed by principal Mary Ellen Ryan, who in a statement said the former New York police officer "had ultimate responsibility for supervising the students during the time the inappropriate behavior took place."
Cerbone also was fired from his physical education teaching post. Four assistant coaches who were placed on leave were reinstated.
Josiah Turner, the talented yet troubled guard out of Sacramento High, is with his third professional basketball team.
He played last week for the Summerside Storm of the National Basketball League in Canada after being released by Halifax of the same league. Halifax coach Robert Spon told reporters: "Josiah just didn't buy into my system. Josiah wanted to do what Josiah wanted to do."
Turner was removed from the Arizona Wildcats after a troubled freshman season. He played briefly for a Hungarian team but asked to be released from his contract.