Hometown Report

Arik Armstead gives back to a sport that has given the big guy a ton

Bouncing around the regions in a forward lean – from Arik Armstead, UC Davis preseason football rankings, Kings draft hopeful with regional roots, and news out of Cal:

AA all A’s – Arik Armstead was doing Arik Armstead things earlier this month.

He is a big guy, all of 6-foot-8, with a big personality to match his big heart.

The 49ers defensive lineman by way of Pleasant Grove High School and Oregon raised more than $100,000 at his annual 91Six Charity, a fundraiser for the Armstead Academic Project in Sacramento for underserved youth in his home region.

Armstead shared these sobering numbers: More than two-thirds of students who are not able to read proficiently by the end of the fourth grade will end up on welfare or jail. Armstead also hosted his annual football camp with 200 kids attending, a man in his element, surrounded by giddy kids, locked in his every word. He stressed fitness, fun, reading and living a good life at any age.

Shaq Thompson of Grant fame also gives back regularly to his community, including hosting a free football camps. Armstead and Thompson, close pals, are role models without even trying.

UCD ranked – UC Davis, coming off its 100th year of football and its best season at 10-3, is ranked in the Top 5 in two preseason polls.

The Aggies are No. 3 in the Hero Sports list behind James Madison and North Dakota State, and fifth by Athlon Sports. These are the highest preseason rankings for the program since it elevated to Division I status in 2007 (the Aggies were regularly ranked high during their storied D-II run).

UCD returns 19 starters for Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Dan Hawkins, headed by All-American quarterback candidate Jake Maier. UCD opens the season at Cal on Aug. 31. UCD lost last season to Stanford and twice to Eastern Washington, including in the playoffs.

IP with Kings? - Isaiah Pineiro was born in Los Angeles but raised in Placer County, and he soaked in a lot of the Kings while making his own mark as a basketball star.

The one-time Placer High, Sierra College and University of San Diego scoring forward was put through a pre-draft workout with the Kings, numbed and humbled by the experience.

“I live 45 minutes north of here in Auburn,” Pineiro said. “It’s kind of surreal to be here practicing for (the Kings).”

If Pineiro isn’t drafted, he is hopeful of a summer-league roster spot. Money can be made in this sport across the globe. He’s 6-7, averaged 18 points at San Diego and says of his game, “I have a skill set. I can defend. I can pass. I can shoot. I can play multiple positions and compete at a high level.”

Cal matters – Lindsay Gottlieb is on the move in what is a quantum leap for her profession.

Gottlieb is the newly hired Cleveland Cavaliers assistant coach, plucked from her head-coaching duties as Cal’s women’s coach, where in eight seasons she led seven NCAA Tournament teams. She is the first female collegiate head coach so hired by an NBA club, and she had the ringing endorsement of those she coached, including one-time Bee Player of the Year Mckenzie Forbes of Folsom, who says of Gottlieb, “she’s awesome!”

And this bit of truth: A coach is a coach. Players respond to those who know their stuff. Kudos to the NBA for recognizing that beyond assistants hired from the WNBA ranks.

More Cal matters – Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers donated more than $1 million to Cal to help renovate the locker rook and to create the Aaron Rodgers Scholarship specific to junior college transfers.

Rodgers was a JC pick up for Cal, discovered by Jeff Tedford in 2002 when the one-time Cal coach was checking out a Butte College tight end. Rodgers was not recruited out of Pleasant Valley High in Chico, something that still fuels him as a blatant slight.

Rodgers enjoyed two prolific seasons at Cal during the program’s surge from purgatory, including a 10-1 regular season showing in 2004. He bristled for years after Cal fired Tedford in 2012. For years, Rodgers wore a Butte College sweat top during media events, including the Super Bowl, as a show of support for his old JC and to stick it to Cal.

But time heals. Tedford has worked similar wonders at Fresno State.

“The (Cal) facilities are amazing now,” Rodgers told a media pack during mini camp. “But this helps out with the locker room because there’s some other schools in the Pac-12 now that really have some big-time money behind them and it makes it a little more difficult to recruit some of those kids who are choosing between a Cal and a (Washington) and an Oregon. It just gives us a chance.”

Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988 and is award-winning authority on high school sports, specializing in going behind the scenes. Davidson was a high school athlete in Oregon, where he participated in football and track.