Mission Prep seniors Bryce Fledderman and Robert Crandall would be considered late entries to the football world by most. Neither started playing the game until their freshman years after focusing on baseball and basketball for most of their lives.
But as they grew in size and age, football became their go-to sport. On Wednesday afternoon, with their parents behind them and their friends cheering, both committed to playing football in their college years by signing National Letters of Intent.
Crandall, a 6-foot-4, 285-pound offensive lineman, signed as a preferred walk-on with San Jose State University. Fledderman, a three-year starter at quarterback, will join the University of San Diego.
Crandall began catching the eye of college recruiters during his junior year and was in talks with Fresno State, UC Davis and San Jose State. Then all three coaching staffs were fired, and the relationships he had built were history.
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But one of the Fresno State recruiters, Joe Bernardi, found a new job as the offensive line coach at San Jose State and brought Crandall in for an official visit Friday.
“I fell in love with the new coaching staff,” Crandall, a member of The Tribune’s All-County Team and Northern League Defensive Lineman of the Year, said of the visit. “I really like what they have created and what they are going to create in the coming years, and I really want to be a part of that.”
Crandall will join two former SLO County football players in Paso Robles High School’s Josh Oliver and Bailey Gaither on the Spartans roster.
Fledderman didn’t know if he wanted to stay in California — at first.
The 6-foot-5 Northern League Offensive Back of the Year had interest from a few Ivy League schools and considered moving east. In the end, the draw of California sunshine and a chance to get on the field sooner rather than later with an up-and-coming Toreros team was too much to pass up.
“The opportunity to play helped out my decision a lot,” Fledderman said. “The coaches were all so inviting, and I love the offensive coordinator, Tanner Engstrand. He is someone who I want to work with.”
San Diego became the first non-scholarship football program to win an FCS playoff game when it defeated Cal Poly in the first round in November. Fledderman was there to see it.
“They are expecting to make the playoffs every year,” said Fledderman, who passed for more than 5,900 yard and 59 touchdowns during his high school career. “It just makes you want to be a part of it.”
Their football teammates, running back Brayden Corona and defensive back Jacob Christian, also signed their NLIs with Division III Whitworth University (Spokane, Washington) and Division III St. John’s University (Collegeville, Minnesota), respectively.
Flores Signs with Cal Lutheran
Despite a standout high school career as the Mission Prep goalkeeper, Gabby Flores wasn’t sure if she wanted to play soccer for a college team.
“At the collegiate level, it is really competitive and a higher responsibility,” Flores said. “I started thinking, ‘What if I just focus on school? What if I had time to go out hiking with friends?’ ”
Flores decided she has time to do both and signed her National Letter of Intent to play at Cal Lutheran, the first school that recruited her.
Flores was one of the bright spots on a Royals team that didn’t win a league game this season. She had multiple double-digit save games, including a 15-save performance against Pioneer Valley and a 12-save performance against Atascadero. In a recent vote, Flores was named PAC 8 Goalkeeper of the Year. Not bad for someone who didn’t want to play goalkeeper at first.
“I grew to like it,” Flores said. “I like being that last line of defense. That last little bit of hope.”
Flores, a team captain who is known for being one of the most vocal players on the field, hopes to continue to be a leader at Cal Lutheran, but she said her main focus will continue to be her major, communications. She will join Arroyo Grande High School’s Cate Boller, who signed with the Regals in November.
“The competitiveness at the college level, to be honest, it got me a little timid at first. But I think I’m ready,” Flores said.