Joe Davidson

Why local multisport athletes have a better chance of playing in the pros

Sheldon guard Dom Johnson, center, gets between Jesuit's Darin Similai, left, and Chris Simpson on Jan. 12 at Sheldon High School. Johnson also played football for the Huskies and was a Bee All-Metro selection in both sports.
Sheldon guard Dom Johnson, center, gets between Jesuit's Darin Similai, left, and Chris Simpson on Jan. 12 at Sheldon High School. Johnson also played football for the Huskies and was a Bee All-Metro selection in both sports. jvillegas@sacbee.com

It pays to play multiple sports and leg it out over various seasons.

The idea of one-sport specialization has invaded the high school front across the country, but studies show it is wise to engage in as many athletic endeavors as possible.

It's good for the muscles, good for the experiences and good for the teams and schools in which these student-athletes compete for.

Check these results: 30 of the 32 first-round NFL draft picks from April were multi-sport athletes in high school.

Even more remarkable: 226 out of the 256 players drafted over seven rounds played more than one sport as preps, according to Tracking Football, an NCAA-compliant football scouting service — that's a whopping 88.3 percent. Track and field or basketball were the most popular other sports to go with football.

Translation: Go with the numbers.

So kudos to Cal-Hi Sports for recognizing Grid-Hoop All-State teams for this academic year. We were plenty pleased here to offer regional nominations.

Dom Johnson of Sheldon and Colfax's Garren O'Keefe, Bee All-Metro stars in football and basketball, landed on the Cal-Hi list.

Johnson was a 6-foot-3 linebacker and receiver who made 40 tackles and averaged 29.5 yards receiving with eight touchdowns. He was also a driving force for the best basketball team in Northern California, winning a playoff game with a late runner and providing passes, screens, leadership and defensive prowess right down to the CIF State championship game.

Johnson is not sure where he will play in college, but either sport is about to land a gem.

O'Keefe at 6-4 made plays as a tight end and forward for Colfax teams that played for section championships, all while maintaining a 4.4 grade-point average. He is one of the finest athletes in school history, headed to UC Davis to block and catch passes.

Levelle Bailey of Burbank and Trey Jones of Capital Christian earned Grid-Hoop Honorable Mention.

Cal-Hi Regional winners

Cal-Hi has named a Grid-Hoop Player of the Year since 1980.

The first was from Sacramento — Don Rogers of Norte Del Rio, which has since closed. Rogers was a first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns out of UCLA in in 1984, having also played basketball. His brother, Reggie, earned the Cal-Hi honor in 1982 for Norte, having also played hoops. He was a first-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 1987.

Matt Barnes of Del Campo won the Cal-Hi nod in 1998 after catching 29 touchdown passes in the fall and setting career scoring and rebounding marks in basketball, eventually playing 14 NBA seasons.

Barnes said playing football and spending time in the weight room "gave me a shot to even make it in the NBA."

Alex Van Dyke of Cosumnes Oaks won it in 2014 as a football and basketball star. He graduated from UCLA this spring and is recovering from a hamstring injury as he sets aim on an NFL future.

In 2015, Justice Shelton-Mosley of Capital Christian was the Cal-Hi winner, having excelled in football and basketball. He is a star all-purpose player at Harvard, a scholar who aspires to get into politics.

Father's Day bonus

Zac Welch peered across the dining-room table on Father's Day and gave his father an announcement sure to resonate a good long while.

The senior-to-be at Oak Ridge committed to Nevada to play offensive line for the Wolf Pack, leaving pop Jimm to say, "The gift was watching my boy become a man and making the first real big decision of his life."

A similar pledge played out Saturday in Auburn, where lineman Blake Baughman also committed to Nevada. Baughman was a critical cog to Placer's run to the state championship game last fall.

Baughman and Welch were recruited by new Nevada offensive line and assistant head coach Angus McClure, the one-time Sacramento State "Hammerhead" lineman and assistant coach who recently coached at UCLA.

Baughman's lineman teammate, Joey Capra, has picked up scores of offers, including from Nevada.

Down to seven

Jesuit two-way standout Isaiah Rutherford received his first scholarship offer from Alabama a year ago, and then the offers started to pour in for the senior-to-be tailback/cornerback. In no particular order, Rutherford has narrowed his list down to Alabama, Cal, Colorado, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon and Notre Dame.

His father, Reynard Rutherford, might wink at the notion of Cal, having played running back for the Golden Bears from 1992-95, rushing for 2,256 yards and 13 touchdowns, including 1,061 yards from scrimmage and six scores as a senior.

When the 6-2 Rutherford made an unofficial visit during Cal's spring game, he slipped on his old man's No. 34 number, which is what the kid wore at Jesuit last fall when he rushed for 1,468 yards and 17 touchdowns and made two interceptions as a defensive back.

Other recruit names

The area's No. 1 senior recruit, and one of the most prominent in the country, is Joseph Ngata of Folsom.

The Bee Player of the Year last fall for a 16-0 state championship team, Ngata is a 6-3, 210-pound receiver with a flood of national offers, including Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, USC and Washington.

Laiatu Latu of Jesuit, a 6-5, 245-pound linebacker/tight end, has offers from Alabama, Cal, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and several others.

Showdown showcase

Jesuit opens its season at Folsom on Aug. 24, having lost to the Bulldogs twice last fall, including in the playoffs.

Not that it's a big secret, but Folsom and Jesuit will open the season as The Bee's No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams. Let them decide it on the field.

With 16 starters back, Folsom opens this season Aug. 17 at national power De La Salle, which has not lost to a Northern California team since 1991, an unbeaten streak of 289 games against teams north of Fresno.

De La Salle is 373-5-2 against NorCal teams since 1984, including recent success against area heavies when it plowed through Del Oro (three times), Folsom (twice), Granite Bay (once) and Jesuit (once).

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD

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