When Jerek Rosales transferred to Concord De La Salle High his sophomore year, he stepped into an art class and met Kevin Griffin.
The two shared some laughs, a competitive nature and a hidden talent to draw. Eventually, the fast friends were sharing a defensive backfield for the Spartans’ football team before going their separate ways for college.
Today, the beginning of the National Letter of Intent signing period for the NCAA, the duo is preparing to reunite at Cal Poly. The Mustangs will reveal their signees at a public 4 p.m. ceremony at Mother’s Tavern.
Griffin, who played as a true freshman cornerback at Washington State last fall, appears to be the centerpiece of what’s expected to be a signing class of 20-plus players for the Mustangs, and Rosales provides some sought-after size to a defensive backfield that had some trouble defending taller receivers last season.
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Griffin said coaches have proposed a move to safety for this year because Cal Poly lost senior starters Jordan Williams and Dave Douglas. He could move back to corner after returning seniors Karlton Dennis, Chris Fletcher and Fernando Cabico end their careers after next season.
Or not. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound incoming sophomore said he could be a bigger playmaker at safety and was recruited to the position out of high school by Washington State, Houston, Montana and Portland State but will move wherever the team needs him. NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from commenting publicly on recruits before receiving signed letters of intent. Either way, Griffin said, he expects to excel.
“I plan on being one of the best players on our defense,” Griffin said, “and I plan on being one of the best players, if not the best player, in the conference.”
Griffin said he also received interest from Cal and Fresno State, where he would have had to sit out a year to comply with NCAA transfer rules, as well as UC Davis and Sacramento State.
Instead, he said he plans to join the Mustangs for spring drills. A transfer to an FCS school would allow him to play immediately.
Griffin is not currently enrolled in classes anywhere but instead left the Cougars after the season to return home to Emeryville to help his mother care for his two young siblings and to be closer to his grandfather, who was recently diagnosed with cancer.
He said he was happy at Washington State, where he burned his redshirt to play in the final three games of the season, but returning to California made more sense for his family.
Since Griffin calls the Rosales household his second family, that notion takes on an added meaning at Cal Poly, where Rosales gave a verbal commitment to the Mustangs almost a month ago.
Mustangs coaches, Rosales said, have been recruiting him since high school, and after a freshman season at Diablo Valley College where he had 20 tackles and an interception to go with 1.5 sacks, the 6-foot-1, 188-pound cornerback is also looking for immediate playing time.
Rosales said he received interest from Nevada, San Jose State, Hawaii, Fresno State and Idaho and was even urged by some to decommit after his verbal with the Mustangs, but he said he is loyal to Cal Poly because it was the only program that remained in contact with him throughout his high school and junior college career.
“Even during high school,” Rosales said, “if I would have gotten offers from the schools, Cal Poly was the place I wanted to go. … Football only lasts so long. So, what’s more important to me is getting my degree and seeing how far that takes me.”
Rosales said once he got to know the Mustangs staff, he suggested defensive backs coach Neil Fendall take a look at his old friend and classmate, and he got to work himself getting Griffin excited about the possibility of a reunion.
Following Rosales, who gave Cal Poly his verbal commitment before taking his official visit, Griffin followed suit and did the same, declaring his commitment on Twitter prior to his official visit this past weekend.
But Griffin said the campus visit truly hammered home his faith in the decision. He said he valued the coaches’ genuine interest in the high quality of education, and meeting the players only furthered the family theme that brought him there.
“The players were down to earth,” Griffin said. “At other places, seniors will be with seniors and juniors will be with juniors. When I was around the players, I couldn’t really tell what year the players were because they were just all combined. It seemed kind of like a brotherhood, like De La Salle.”