Jake Romanelli likes to describe himself as just a kid from Templeton.
The horse ranches and vineyards of the small North County town haven’t produced a ton of heralded athletes. Romanelli was the first to sign a Division I letter of intent out of Templeton High when he committed to Cal Poly football in 2007.
Five years later, the fullback is the team MVP and could even have a shot in the NFL.
“To be honest, when I signed out of high school, I never thought any of this would happen,” Romanelli said. “My goal was to go in there and be a contributor on the team. My goal was by the end of my career to be starting. That was it.
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“To see my number in the bookstore and getting all-conference, postseason awards and being team MVP, it’s just icing on the cake.
“It’s truly an honor. I had an amazing career.”
After rushing for 1,015 yards and becoming the first Mustangs player to reach 1,000 in the past five seasons, Romanelli was voted by teammates and coaches to be the MVP of a Cal Poly team that finished 6-5 in 2011.
Junior quarterback Andre Broadous, who rushed for a school-record 18 touchdowns and ranked fourth in the FCS in scoring, was named offensive MVP, and senior cornerback Asa Jackson, who had two interception returns for touchdowns and was among the nation’s leaders with 18 yards per punt return, was the defensive MVP.
Senior offensive tackle Scott Winnewisser was chosen as the most inspirational player, and junior linebacker Kennith Jackson took the Mel Kaufman Award, which is given out to the player who most exemplifies the virtues the former Cal Poly star player and coach was known for on and off the field before his death in 2009.
Senior slotback Mark Rodgers won the Legion Award for consistency, redshirt freshman linebacker Nick Dzubnar was the most improved player and sophomore quarterback Kenny Johnston and senior cornerback Darryl Williams were the scout team players of the year.
Jackson likely has the best chance to play in the pros. Already on the scouting radar after running a 4.40-second 40-yard dash at Cal Poly’s junior scouting day last spring, Jackson is only the third Mustangs player to be a four-year all-conference selection, the others being New York Giants receiver Ramses Barden and former Arroyo Grande High standout offensive guard Stephen Field.
Mustangs head coach Tim Walsh said Jackson could be selected as high as the second or third round of the NFL Draft.
Romanelli, listed at 6-foot-3, 245-pounds, would likely have to make a squad as an undrafted free agent, something former Cal Poly receiver Dominique Johnson found difficult after the lockout-shortened offseason this past year.
Because he was more of a running back than a traditional pro-style blocking fullback, Romanelli will have to prove himself in ways he hasn’t before, but the Templeton kid feels he can land another big first for his hometown by playing a role at the highest level.
“From what I’ve heard, talking with a couple of scouts, they look at me more of a fullback or even a tight end type of guy,” Romanelli said, “but I would have to change my body a little bit, put on more weight.”
St. Mary’s 65, Cal Poly 62
Without injured starters Kristina Santiago and Brittany Woodard, the Mustangs had four players in double figures — led by Christine Martin’s 15 — but it was not enough to keep the Gaels from sweeping the men-women series between the two schools.
The St. Mary’s men topped Cal Poly 59-54 in Mott Gym on Saturday. In Moraga on Sunday, the Gaels’ women took control of a back-and-forth game with a go-ahead basket that made it 52-51 with 4:56 left and held on from there.
Kayla Griffin had 11 points for the Mustangs, and Caroline Reeves and Molly Schlemer each scored 10.