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Friday, August 25, 2006

Koloto's transformation working for Palo Alto

Koloto's transformation working for Palo Alto
- Emanuel Lee, Special to The Chronicle
Wednesday, August 23, 2006

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When Fred Koloto arrived at Palo Alto High in August 2003, he sought out the freshman basketball coach.

Football was the furthest thing from his mind.

"It's kind of crazy thinking about it now, but all I could think about was basketball," he said. "I always thought since I was taller than everyone else growing up in Samoa that basketball was going to be my sport in high school in America."

That all changed when Koloto had a chance meeting with junior varsity/frosh-soph football coach David Duran, who persuaded the then-eager freshman to try football instead.

"A couple of days later, I was beating up all the kids on the team," Koloto said.

In fact, Koloto, now a 6-foot-3, 284-pound senior guard/defensive tackle, said his first hit was so vicious that he broke one of his teammates' ankle.

"A couple of days later, I walk into the trainers' room and I see a guy getting taped up," Koloto said. "He tells me, 'Hey, do you remember me? You're the one that broke my ankle.' I told him it was my bad."

These days, Koloto saves all of his big hits for his opponents. It's apparent Division I programs have taken notice.

Nebraska, Washington, San Jose State and BYU have offered full scholarships, Koloto said. Cornhuskers coach Bill Callahan text messages Koloto on his cell phone almost daily, ending each message with, "Remember, the 'Huskers want you."

Koloto has to pinch himself with all the attention he's receiving. "Sometimes, I still can't believe this is happening to me," he said.

Recruiters can't believe Koloto can't believe. They rave about his strength, quickness and agility.

He'll lead an experienced 2006 Palo Alto team that some consider the favorite to knock off perennial champion Los Gatos for the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza title.

It's not only Koloto's talent that the Vikings will follow. It's also his competitive nature.

"When I line up, I look right into the eyes of the guy across from me," he said. "I'm trying to intimidate them and letting them know that I'm coming after them. Off the field, I'm a nice guy. On the field, my opponents are my enemy."

He didn't learn that on the basketball court.

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