Written by Laura M. Tapia
The Riverside City College football program welcomed one of its largest mid-year signing classes, on Dec.16, with 10 players walking into the hall of fame room in the Wheelock gym to announce where they had signed their national letters of intent.
Head coach Tom Craft commend his players for a season of hard work and dedication to their academics and the game.
“Ten guys, midyear, there’s probably no other (college) doing that,” said Craft. “I’m proud of these guys. They’ve done a terrific job. They want to win, but they also want to transfer.”
Among those committing to four-year programs was offensive lineman Dwayne Wallace, who committed to UC Berkeley overcoming obstacles such as coming from a foster home and being injured mid-season.
Interim athletic director Jim Wooldridge acknowledged Wallace’s hard work.
“He had to overcome a lot of odds to get to this point,” Wooldridge said. “The fact that he’s not only transferring to a four year school, (but) he’s going to a UC, the flagship school in the UC system, is quite remarkable.”
Quarterback Kevin Olsen, brother of Carolina Panthers’ Greg Olsen, also dealt with his fair share of obstacles, after being dismissed from the Miami Hurricanes football program following a DUI arrest, he bounced back through the RCC football program.
Wooldridge said that although Olsen was only with the Tigers for a semester, the program helped give him a second chance.
“This program and our head football coach provided the stability and opportunity (for Olsen) to straighten some things out,” Wooldridge said. “To be evaluated for that, good or bad and as it turned out it was good and he got a four-year scholarship to (UNC) Charlotte.”
Olsen, who had 98 completions for 13 touchdowns and 1,080 yards in nine games played for the Tigers said having family nearby was a key factor in choosing UNC Charlotte.
“It was a home run there,” Olsen said.
The Tigers’ defense was also well represented with linebacker Ariel “AJ” Hotchkins who finished his sophomore season with 99 tackles, 47 of which resulted in a loss of yardage for opposing offenses.
Hotchkins, who also played for the Tigers his freshman year was the team’s only defensive starter from the previous season. He was named as a unanimous selection for the All-Central Conference First Team Defense his sophomore year.
Although he left 18 other offers when he committed to the University of Oregon, it gives him the unique opportunity to reunite with linebacker Jonah Moi, who played with Hotchkins during his freshman year at RCC.
The biggest takeaway Hotchkins wants other athletes following in similar footsteps to take is to be persistent.
“Just get through it, try to stay on the right track and persevere,” Hotchkins said.
RCC ended it season with an 8-3 overall record and a season-ending loss against Saddleback College in the Southern California regional semifinal, although they finished in a three-way tie for a record of 5-1 in the National Central league.
The regular signing period started on Feb. 3 and continues through April 1.
James H. Williams contributed to this article.
Dwayne Wallace (OL)- UC Berkeley
AJ Hotchkins (LB)- University of Oregon
Kevin Olsen (QB)- UNC Charlotte
Lio Lafaele (OL)- Memphis
Sean Krepsz (OL)- Dixie State University
Christian Cronk (OL)- Fresno State
Dontel James (OL)- Fresno State
Isi Holani (DL)- Kansas
Jermel Walker (WR)- Middle Tennessee
Lavell Thomas (DB)- Azusa Pacific
Alonge Brooks (WR)- South Dakota State
JC Jackson (DB)- South Carolina
Abraham Reinhardt (LB)
Shiloh Pritchard (LB)
Acquarey Eddington (LB)
Dezmond Kaaihue (DL)
Kyrion Parker (WR)
KJ Young (WR)
Jujuan Thomas (WR)
Nate Ve’e (FB)
PJ Walker (FB)
Denzel Foster (RB)