It was some weekend for Jake Browning, and he didn’t even handle a football.
Folsom High School’s record-breaking quarterback displayed unusual modesty by passing up meat-market combine-like evaluations in the Bay Area to appear at two events close to home.
Saturday, Browning joined football players from Oak Ridge and Del Oro to serve as escorts for teenagers with special needs at the Evening of Dreams, a red-carpet event that included dinner and dancing. It was a lifetime moment for all involved.
Sunday, Browning tossed a ceremonial first pitch at Raley Field as the Art Savage/River Cats regional Male Athlete of the Year. Monday, the Washington-bound junior and two-time Bee Player of the Year was still buzzing.
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“It was great,” Browning said enthusiastically. “The Evening of Dreams was fun and it was good for perspective. And it wasn’t charity. It was important.”
Del Oro coach Casey Taylor said more than 100 of his players have participated in Evening of Dreams over five years. He encourages other schools to participate.
“It’s a very humbling experience for players because it gives them an idea of how good they have it, and it’s a great feeling to give back, to make someone feel special,” Taylor said. “Seeing Jake Browning there touched me. He gets it. He’s first class on and off the field.”
Browning, not one to chase accolades, chose the River Cats honor instead of participating in quarterback competitions in the Bay Area. He also prefers to compete in shoulder pads, not in shorts and a T-shirt.
“We have a lot of work to do with our own team, and if you let outside stuff take over, it can be too much,” Browning explained of bypassing such events in general. “I can understand why people want to do those events and that they’re great events, but it’s not for me. It’s the ‘Underwear Olympics.’ College coaches say the same thing. I knew I’d take some heat for not going, but it’s not like I’m shying away from competition. If someone wants to bring their team to take on ours, let’s do it. I’m not gun shy.”
Well, perhaps a little. Browning, having not played an inning of baseball in his life, didn’t want to throw his pitch into the Raley Field turf.
“I was hoping they didn’t have a softball ace go up there and rifle a shot, and then here comes some guy in me who’s supposed to know how to throw,” Browning said with a laugh. “I played it safe. I didn’t try to be Randy Johnson.”
He’s just Jake Browning, and that’s a lot.
Block party – Tom Blocker (Jesuit) raced all weekend. The Cal senior finished his business final in decision analysis on Friday, immediately flew to Spokane, Wash, then zipped to Pullman via van for the Pacific-12 Conference track and field finals at Washington State. Blocker competed in the sprints and two relays (placing third in the 400 relay in 40.13 seconds), and headed back to Berkeley, where Monday he participated in graduation ceremonies celebrating his business degree.
NFL signings – Offensive linemen Austin Wentworth (Whitney) of Fresno State and Pierce Burton (Rio Americano) of Mississippi signed with the Minnesota Vikings as undrafted rookie free agents. Also signing as undrafted rookie free agents: quarterback Logan Kilgore (Jesuit) of Middle Tennessee with the New Orleans Saints and defensive end Anthony Larry (Burbank) of Eastern Washington with the Philadelphia Eagles. Kilgore had the fewest high school snaps of this lot, without a single varsity start. He got better as he got older.
AG with KISS – Aaron Garcia (Grant, Sacramento State), 43, signed with the LA KISS of the Arena Football League as he continues to defy age. An 18-year veteran and The Bee’s 1987 Player of the Year, Garcia is the AFL career passing leader with 60,471 yards. His 1,310 touchdown passes are the most in pro football history, never mind the 50-yard AFL fields. Garcia pondered retirement this winter while watching his freshman daughter, Gigi Garcia, enjoy an All-Metro basketball season for McClatchy but returned because he said he still has plenty to give.