In the past five years, the Pierce football program has fielded more players from outside the state of California than any other school in the American Pacific Conference, a Roundup investigation has found.
The Brahmas’ 2012 roster is made up of 95 players, with 54 of them being outside the state of California.
Half of those 54 out-of-state players are either from Pennsylvania or New Jersey, which is where Pierce seems to get many of its recruits in recent seasons.
According to the California Community College Athletic Association, Pierce must recruit from Ventura County– their contingency area to recruit from– if district recruiting efforts fall short.
“We don’t go out of California to do recruiting, because we don’t know who any of these players are,” Pierce head coach Efrain Martinez said. “They have to get in contact with us, for us to even start looking into them to recruit.”
According to Los Angeles Southwest College head coach Ted Washington– who is also a member of the executive board of junior college recruiting– the only way to recruit out-of-state players is if they contact you first, then “it’s fair game.”
“None of these kids are breaking any rules by coming here to Pierce,” Athletic Director Bob Lofrano said. “Once they call us, they’re more than welcome to come out here and play for us.”
Lofrano also expressed that football players from out of state are still like any other student coming in from another state.
“These athletes are still students, they are just like every other student that comes here from out of state,” Lofrano said. “There is nothing in this school that says you can’t come from out of state.”
Many schools in the American Pacific Conference, including Santa Monica College and West Los Angeles College, try to have as few out-of-state players as possible on their team, according to head coaches from each of the two schools.
“Many schools don’t recruit out-of-state players because it can become a big headache,” Martinez said. “Coaches have to worry about if they have a place to live, if they have food, and other essentials.”
The reason for this according to Washington is that many schools like to stay in their districts area for many of their recruits for all sports, not just football.
“The belief here at Santa Monica has been to recruit in our district area, believing that’s the best strategy,” Santa Monica head coach Gifford Lindheim– whose 2012 roster only shows 12 out-of-state players– said.
An out-of-state player has to pay $225 a unit, unlike the $45 a California resident has to pay, according to Lofrano.
“It’s going to be a burden for many players financially– to come to Pierce College or anywhere else that’s out of state– for these kids to play football,” Lofrano said.
Martinez believes the problem about recruiting players from in California is that there are too many schools out here, so many of the kids take it for granted.
“These kids have so many different options of which school they want to go to, as kids that live 3,000 miles away have no choice but to come out here, play football, and pursues their dream,” Martinez said.
According to Martinez, former players Ty Harris and Nate Ingram made the transition to California, and gave the blueprint for other players to succeed in making the move from another state.
“Those guys got their own apartments; and got to and from school themselves, which is all you need to ask from them to see they made the transition of moving here,” said Martinez.
There are 144 schools that play two-year football in the entire country, and California has over 70 of these schools.
“So where are they going to go to play football in states that don’t even have junior college football?” Lofrano asked. “Basically their only choices are to go to out-of-state schools, and figure it out from there.”
This is the reason why assistant head coach Jason Sabolic never worries about out-of-state recruiting, because there are few options out there to play two-year football.
“There will always be an influx of out-of-state players coming to Pierce,” Sabolic said. There are only a few states that offer kids a second chance at playing football after high school if they couldn’t get a scholarship from a university.”
Martinez says defensive coordinator Ty Greenwood is the reason for much of his success to recruiting out-of-state players.
“[Greenwood] has a great connection to many of the high schools on the east coast,” Martinez said.”Which makes him very valuable to our staff.”
Greenwood joined the Pierce coaching staff as a volunteer assistant in 2007, the same year Martinez landed the head coaching job.
“When we first joined, Pierce was kind of crappy,” Greenwood said. “Pierce was one of the worst schools in the nation, not even local kids wanted to come here.”
Martinez and Greenwood came to the conclusion that since no kids from the area wanted to come play for Pierce, that they should aim to get out-of-state kids that would be interested in an opportunity to play.
Greenwood called up his old high school coach, opposing high school coaches he played against and former teammates that are high school head coaches now to let them know about Pierce.
“Once the first couple players that came out here got scholarships, that sent a message to everyone else to come play at Pierce, because you can get that opportunity,” Greenwood said. “The message about us spread, and that was doing most of our recruiting for us.”
Greenwood’s connections range from states like New Jersey and Maryland all the way down south to Florida.
“With Greenwood having so many contacts in the East, it gives us flexibility in getting the best players for our team from different states other than California,” Sabolic said.
Greenwood’s latest big name recruit is freshman receiver Jaelen Strong, who Martinez believes is one of the best players in junior college.
Strong played high school football at West Catholic in Philadelphia, where he heard about Pierce from Gerald Bowman, who played last season.
Bowman got a scholarship offer to play for the University of Southern California, as he was one of 12 players to sign with a Division 1 school last year.
Sophomore punter Vince Salvati believes that out-of-state recruiting is great, because it gives players that didn’t get an offer out of high school another shot.
“Not only is the program getting highly sought [after] athletes, the program in return is getting these players to top universities that may have once been out of the picture during their high school years,” said Salvati.
With in-state recruiting many coaches only have headaches on the field, never worrying about life off the field, according to Martinez.
“These kids that move here from far away that have to suffer to pursue their dream, become grown up very quick,” Martinez said. “They’ve grown up so comfortable having mom and dad around, that they realize quick once they move out here that when they come home, mom’s cooking isn’t on the table anymore; they have to feed and fend for themselves now.”
Lindheim credits the problem of not recruiting out-of-state to housing being so expensive.
“With recruiting in-state players, that worry about these [whether] kids have a place to stay is the least of your worries, since they have family that live here,” Martinez said. “Having a place to stay if you’re an out-of-state player is difficult.”
Martinez and his coaching staff try to help the players in any way they can by letting the players know where there are open apartments near school so they can come and live out here.
“We’ll be like, ‘hey look there are some apartments in Reseda,’ call them and apply,” Martinez said.
Many players just end up staying at a friend’s house that lives in the area, according to Martinez.
Sabolic believes the coaching staff at Pierce works harder than any other coaching staff in the conference for getting players out.
“We have a reputation as a school now of getting players out of here with scholarships,” Martinez said. “This is our best weapon on how we can get new recruits to come here.”
Martinez aims for Pierce being the premiere school for football at the junior college level.
“I’m trying to make Pierce College the school to come to in Southern California if you’re trying to play football,” said Martinez.
The secret to Pierce’s success is not just about winning, but to have a good time and send them out to good schools.
“Many schools care more about winning than they care about getting players out,” Martinez said. “Winning is important, but if I can’t get every player to a good school on some kind of scholarship, then that is a failure for me personally.”
In the past five years, Pierce players have gotten over 150 scholarships to play football, according to Sabolic.
“That is an amazing number,” Sabolic said. “That doesn’t get as much attention as it should from the media.”
Pierce ended the 2012 season with nine wins– the most they have had as a coaching staff.
“We have done so much with Pierce that no one outside of us believed we could do,” Greenwood said. “Sometimes I care more than the players care about getting them out, because this is why we coach.”