Sending them to the next level

Most community college football players have a dream of playing at the next level — at a four-year university — and for years the Pierce football program has helped them achieve that dream.

The team of the graduating class of 2016 continued the tradition with 41 players moving on to four-year universities, including 21 players to Division I schools. This was a 25 player increase from the 2015 graduating class, which previously had 16.

The progress for Pierce alumni doesn’t stop at the collegiate level. The last six years have seen four former Brahmas’ names called at the NFL draft — including former Arizona State star receiver and current Houston Texan, Jaelen Strong. According to Head Coach Jason Sabolic, there should be two more in the 2017 draft and another two in 2018.

“This is the premier place to want to come and play if you want to move on to the next level,” Sabolic said. “There’s no doubt in my mind.”

According to defensive coordinator Torry Hughes this is what attracts players to Pierce.

“Whether we win or lose,” Hughes said, “you come here you get an opportunity to play at the next level.”

In fact, ESPN published an article in 2013 that headlined: “Pierce College now poised as a recruiting paradise.”

With so much talent moving on, preparing players for the next level is a big part of the coaching staff’s focus. Sabolic tries to make everything they do prepare players for the next level.

“We try to mimic the next level,” Sabolic said. “The way we hold the kids accountable. The way academics is important. The way that we handle the life situations.”

The talent for the Brahmas comes from across the nation. Local players are recruited from throughout Los Angeles County, up into Ventura County, the Antelope Valley, and San Bernardino. The battle over local talent is fierce, with nine community colleges in the area. The coaching staff tries to embed themselves in the local football community. Sabolic estimates that he attends 60 high school football games a year. Offensive line coach Tyler Staley helps coach at Agoura, and recruiting coordinator Bryan Wilson coaches at Calabasas.

“The best kid at Chatsworth, or the best kid at Granada, or the best kid at El Camino,” Sabolic said. “We should have those kids if they have to go to junior college.”

However, with no coaches on the staff full-time, local recruitment suffers.  

“We’re getting beaten out by other schools in our area that have full-time coaches that get to spend day-in and day-out making phone calls,” Sabolic said.

Players from outside the recruiting area make first contact with the coaches. What is often referred to as the Philly and New Jersey pipeline, was established back in 2010 by then defensive coach Ty Greenwood, helping Pierce reach talent far east. Since then, word-of-mouth from former players has spread, leading to more talent from the area. One such player is sophomore linebacker Isaiah Staton.

“My friends came here,” Staton said. “Guys from Philly like Jaelen Strong came here. Guys I played against in high school, guys that I grew up with and told me it was a good opportunity out here.”