Football. Friends from home. Southern California beaches. College life.
It’s easy to understand how a couple of former Truckee High football standouts convinced their old teammates to join them at Santa Barbara City College.
A total of five Truckee alumni from three different graduating classes are playing football at the Southern California junior college — Mitch Nelson, Colin Christian, Morgan Nevin, Jackson Weed and Braden Waters — which is more than any other high school, said Santa Barbara head football coach Craig Moropoulos.
“No other high school has that many here. It’s a credit to what they’ve done up there at Truckee High,” Moropoulos said. “They’ve been very successful there, and we hope to continue that development for them as student-athletes in the future.”
Last year, after helping lead the Wolverines to consecutive undefeated seasons in 2009 and 2010, Nelson and Christian followed in the footsteps of 2004 Truckee grad Randon Nunez and headed down to Santa Barbara City College, both to play defensive back for the Vaqueros.
While Christian suffered an early injury that sidelined him for the season, Nelson went on to earn second team All-Conference honors in the American Pacific Conference as a safety. He finished the year ranked 10th in the state in tackles, with 90, and had a team-high three interceptions.
Nelson’s successful freshman campaign confirmed what Moropoulos already suspected — that Truckee products are legit. So it was with open arms that he recently welcomed three additional Wolverines to his roster in Waters, a 2012 grad, Nevin, a 2011 grad, and Weed, a 2010 grad.
There would have been a sixth Truckee player on the SBCC roster, but Ryan Roberts, a 2009 grad, injured his shoulder this summer and decided to hang it up.
“They’re very disciplined kids,” Moropoulos said of the Truckee players. “Obviously they come from a very good program, and so we’re looking for a lot of competitive spirit from those guys.”
Nelson and Christian were instrumental in bringing their old teammates on board, even if it didn’t take much arm-twisting.
“Mitch Nelson kept bringing it up. I thought I was done playing football, but he kind of brought it back to my attention and said that Truckee players could probably step in and play, not easily, but just with the knowledge of football that we have from our coaches,” said Weed, a linebacker who was voted 3A Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. “And the Santa Barbara coaches really like Truckee kids because of Randon and Mitch.”
Nevin, a linebacker who was named 3A Defensive Player of the Year in 2010, walked on as a freshman last year at Southern Methodist University (SMU). But after not receiving playing time at the Division I college, he made the decision to transfer.
“Football just didn’t work out for me at SMU,” he said. “I talked to Jackson on the phone quite a bit, and we started talking about it and said, ‘Santa Barbara looks like the place for us. We have our best friends down there, we could play football and it’s right by the beach. Let’s do it.’”
Waters, a first team All-State tight end, is the only member of the undefeated 2011 state champion Wolverines to join the SBCC squad.
“Well, my buddy Mitch Nelson went down there and did really well last year, and he told me how great it was, with all the kids and playing football, and I just decided to play,” he said, adding that reuniting with his old teammates was part of the appeal. “It’s awesome to play with Jackson, because I haven’t played with him since Pop Warner. And it’s awesome to be reunited with my 2010 state champion team. It feels like Truckee almost, just a different setting.”
Moropoulos said aside from Nelson, whose starting safety position is secure, all the Truckee players are competing for starting spots — Nevin and Weed at inside linebacker, Waters at receiver, and Christian at safety. Nevin and Weed both have added bulk since their high school days, as Weed said he weighs in at about 225-230 pounds, versus his 215 as a Wolverine, while Nevin weighs about 215-220, up from his 185-190 as a senior.
“Morgan has been outstanding for us as far as early practices, and we’re also looking to those other guys to come in and help,” Moropoulos said.
The general consensus among the Truckee contingent is that they can and will provide a boost for the Vaqueros, who finished 0-10 last year as Truckee ran its three-year win streak to 36 consecutive games — one of the longest streaks in the nation.
“It was definitely awakening, going from the best to the worst, but it was a good experience,” Nelson said. “But this year we’re definitely going to win some games.”
“Absolutely,” Nevin agreed. “I think we’re all used to winning and not losing, and I know Mitch is sick of it too because of last year, so I definitely think we’re going to bring in that winning culture and have a winning season.”
“I think so,” Weed added. “I think coming from Truckee, the coaches at Truckee are extremely intelligent, and they teach us a lot of good things. Coach (Jim) Doughty taught me everything I know about linebacking, and coach (Josh) Ivens’ defense and coach (Bob) Shaffer’s offense are at a college level, so when you come here it’s a lot easier to take in what they’re teaching us because we’re so used to complicated schemes and stuff.”