Since 2010, Pierce College transferred 73 football players to 50 different Division I schools throughout the U.S.
The 50 schools ranged from traditional national-powerhouses the University of Oklahoma (tight end Isaac Ijalana) and the University of Southern California (safety Gerald Bowman), to Pac-12 Conference contenders Arizona State University (wide receiver Jaelen Strong) and the University of California, Berkeley (defensive end Jonathan Johnson), to mid-major programs the University of Cincinnati (defensive end Hakeem Allonce) and Georgia State University (quarterback Nick Arbuckle), to historically black college and university Southern University and A&M College (linebacker Martin Henry).
Last year’s class alone transfered 23 Brahmas to Division I schools. But Pierce wasn’t always a hotbed of Division I talent.
“When we came here, this was the worst junior college football program in the state of California,” coach Efrain Martinez said. “We had no tradition. We had nothing to offer these kids.”
The program lacked top-notch facilities, which is what many community colleges used to attract top talent, Martinez said. Instead of a high-end weight room or new stadium, the coach built the program by marketing his players.
“We worked overtime making phone calls to four-year schools,” Martinez said. “Other coaches don’t care about that. All they care about is winning. That’s where the loophole was, and we were able to get in.”
But he wasn’t selling hype. Martinez advertised the right players to the right schools, making sure the players he sent all over the country fit with the programs they went to.
“The secret is not to B.S. those schools out there,” Martinez said. “For example, there’s a certain type of kid that could play at USC. I’m not going to sell USC a kid that can’t play there, because that would ruin it for everybody.”
Defensive line coach Kort Huettinger said they told scouts and coaches about every aspect of their players, not just what they did on gameday.
“We make sure we inform the coaches recruiting them about the player, their work ethic, their classroom ethic, everything about them,” Huettinger said. “We know that they’re spending a lot of money, so we know that if we lie to them, and they recruit somebody bad, that either they’re not going to come back here, or they’re going to get fired for bad recruiting.”
Martinez’ strategy grew the program. Many current Brahmas came to Pierce because of its reputation.
Sophomore cornerback Jay’Onn Myles didn’t get much attention from recruits when he was an undersized player at Palmdale High School, so he chose Pierce as a stepping stone to a four-year university. Myles was second-team all conference last season, and is tied for the team-lead in interceptions this year with one.
“The resume of getting dudes out is wonderful and amazing,” Myles said. “It’s kind of shocking to see what they do year in and year out, and that was really the big thing for me coming here.”
But Myles wouldn’t be the first high school football player from Palmdale to make it to Division I football by way of Pierce. Linebacker Jordan Stanton was a Brahma for two years before transferring to the University of Wyoming in 2013. Stanton led the Cowboys with 133 total tackles last year, and was named Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Week this season in week two after he racked up 13 tackles, one tackle for loss, and one sack in the Cowboy’s win against Air Force.
In 2012 sophomore kicker Jamie Sutcliffe was a redshirt freshman at the University of Utah. After an unsuccessful 2013 campaign, he transferred to Pierce to reboot his college career and get back on a Division I roster. Now he’s the Brahma’s starting kicker.
“They’ve had numerous amounts of success here with guys going out to top-notch schools,” Sutcliffe said. “I felt at home the second I came here.”
Martinez said his motivation for transferring players to four-year schools has extended far beyond Division I football. He said the bigger picture has always been education.
“Those guys get the notoriety, because that’s Division I,” Martinez said. “But the guys who become the presidents go to Division III.”
Pierce transferred a combined 53 players to Division II, Division III, and NAIA schools since 2010.
Freshman wide receiver Earl Hargrove said he’d be happy to go just about anywhere, as long as he could play football and get an education.
“I used to care about prestige, and stuff like that,” Hargrove said. “But now I just want to play.”
Freshman quarterback Sean Smith, who transferred to Pierce after gray-shirting his first year at College of the Canyons, felt the same way as Hargrove.
“If I get something good, I’ll go,” Smith said. “I feel like there’s no way you can dislike a free education.”