Hanson Sekona’s eyes opened a little wider when he started talking about it, a small smile coming across the tough linebacker’s face.
The College of San Mateo star was recounting a recent recruiting trip to Kansas State, where the grayshirt sophomore has been offered a scholarship for next season. Sekona was on hand when the Wildcats played cross-state rival Kansas, and the former Aragon star was overwhelmed by the passion of the fans.
“The recruits were the first ones off the bus and everyone [in the crowd] was in purple and yelling and hollering,” Sekona said. “It was a great experience, and I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. They take their football seriously out there.”
So does Sekona, which is a big reason why the solidly built 6-foot, 230-pound linebacker has emerged into a respected team leader and one of the top JC football players in the Bay Area. He and the Bulldogs will face perhaps their biggest challenge of the season Saturday when CSM (5-1, 0-1 NorCal Conference) hosts rival City College of San Francisco (5-1, 1-0) at 1 p.m. The two campuses are separated by just 20 miles, and many of the participants grew up playing with and against one another.
“[CCSF] is obviously a very talented team, but I view it as just another game against a good team on our schedule — even if the kids may think of it a little differently,” Bulldogs coach Larry Owens said. “If we come to play and do what we’re capable of it’s going to be a good game.”
The defensive effort will start with Sekona, who tops CSM with 49 tackles (including 9.5 behind the line of scrimmage) and is second on the Bulldogs with two sacks. Owens called Sekona the “lifeblood” of the team, and praised him for making the most of a second chance after going through some adversity while in high school.
“We’ve had a lot of guys come here in situations like Hanson’s and not succeed for one reason or another,” Owens said. “But he’s been determined to take advantage of the opportunity, and he’s a talented, smart young man with a really bright future.”
Sekona is also being pursued by several Pac-10 Conference schools in addition to the offer from Kansas State, and the recruiting process is enough to distract even the most disciplined of athletes. But Sekona has put his personal future aside for the time being, preferring to focus on the week-to-week grind of captaining the CSM defense.
“No one really stepped up last year,” Sekona said. “I wanted to be that guy this year, the one telling the boys ‘we gotta believe, we’re brothers out here’.”