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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sofele commits to California

All-state Cottonwood running back Isi Sofele will take his speed and skills to the University of California.

"I was kind of surprised," said Sofele of his decision to commit during a recruiting visit this past weekend. "When I went out there, it was all just positive."

Sofele helped the Colts to a second-place finish in the 4A playoffs this year. He rushed for 1,916 yards and 30 touchdowns. He was offered scholarships by several other Pac-10 schools, as well as Utah, but said once he got on Cal's campus, his decision was easy.

"First of all, their coaches are close to their players," Sofele said. "Their academics are ranked very high, and the facilities were very nice. ... We spent a lot of time with the coaches and players, and I noticed they all got along very well. They're the real deal."

He said coaches told him he could play as a freshman and they have plans to use him as a running back and as a punt and kick returner.

"It depends on summer camp," he said.

Sofele might have surprised himself with the decision to commit, but it didn't surprise his high school coach.

"I kind of had a feeling that if they were serious, if it was what he expected, he'd commit," said Colts head coach Cecil Thomas. "It's such a great fit for him, what they do offensively. He just fits into their system really well."

Sofele said it's always been a dream of his to play in the Pac-10, and the full-ride scholarship offer from Cal's head coach Jeff Tedford last week was tempting even before Sofele traveled to California.

"They are an upper-tier Pac-10 team," said Thomas. "He knows, if you go to Cal, you've got a chance to win a championship every year."

At 5-foot-8 (and three fourths) and 175 pounds, there were plenty of people who wondered if Sofele would get the chance to compete at the highest level of college football.

Sofele, however, said his dream of playing Division I football was never deterred by doubters. In fact, at times those nay-sayers strengthened his resolve.

"I kind of had my mind set to be in this position," he said. "Every time someone would say something like. 'You're too small; you're not going to play D1 football,' it just made me work harder. I've heard that plenty of times."

He credits his parents and his prep coaches for preparing him physically and mentally for college football opportunities.

"My coaches were always nothing but positive with me," he said. "Especially, coach Thomas and Scott (Cate) and my dad (Hui Sofele)."

His parents, Hui and Langi Sofele, traveled with him to the Berkeley area and spent the weekend touring the campus, attending dinners with coaches and even attending a men's basketball game.

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