South Tahoe football player to attend University of San Diego
South Tahoe High student athlete Tommy Cefalu is preparing to take his football career to the next level, having recently been awarded a scholarship to attend and play football at the University of San Diego.
The senior starting quarterback is one of only three South Tahoe student athletes in the class of 2017 to be awarded an athletic scholarship. “It’s definitely a good feeling,” Cefalu said about receiving the scholarship. “All the hard work I’ve done for the past four or five years has definitely paid off.”
Cefalu said he had initially intended to enroll at Eastern Oregon University as a scholarship athlete, but after careful thought and counsel from coaches and family, he felt the University of San Diego was the better fit.
Born and raised in South Lake Tahoe, Cefalu was a multi-sport athlete growing up, but began focusing on basketball and football once he reached high school. “I started playing football in fifth grade,” said Cefalu. “I was a running back actually. Once I got into high school, I transitioned to quarterback. I grew up looking up to the high school athletes when I was kid and dreaming of being a part of everything.” It seems that everything came full circle for Cefalu, now being a large part of South Tahoe athletics and being a student others look up to.
Cefalu said that the quarterback position drew him in due to the leadership aspect, saying he enjoys being able help the team as a whole from that post. “He’s like an extension of the coaching staff, “ said South Tahoe head football coach Louis Franklin. “Which is always a dream at the quarterback position. He’s a really great kid for the community.”
Although Cefalu said he wasn’t necessarily aiming to get a scholarship at first, he started to take his football career much more seriously during his junior and senior years. “As soon as coach Franklin got here, [a scholarship] became more of a priority,” said Cefalu. “That was my main focus.”
It was Cefalu’s junior year in 2015 when people started to take notice of his abilities, with several colleges stopping by to scout him. That year he put up 2,255 passing yards for 21 touchdowns. Cefalu even managed to break 400-yards passing in a single game that year against Sparks High, passing for 406 total yards. He showed he was quick on his feet, too, rushing 162 yards for two touchdowns that same year.
For the 2016 football season, Cefalu helped lead the team to a 9-3 record, overall, and 7-2 in league play. Cefalu explained that he had to sit out some games last season due to a broken hand, but still came close to matching his passing yards record from the previous season and managed even more touchdowns; he had 2,069 passing yards for the season, with 27 touchdowns.
According to Cefalu, one of his most memorable games from last season was in a playoff game at Truckee. “We lost to [Truckee] two weeks before, by a touchdown,” Cefalu recalled. “And then we had to go play there to be able to go to the state semifinals. We actually went there and beat them by a touchdown.”
Cefalu is more than a standout athlete, he has academic prowess as well. In fact, a large portion of his scholarship at USD will be academic. Cefalu should finish his high school academic career with a 4.0 GPA or better. “At South Tahoe, what we have here are a whole lot of opportunities,” said South Tahoe Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Pat Harnett. “What you get with Tommy, is someone who took advantage of that. He’s the kind of guy you would send to a kindergarten class to say ‘hey this is what you want to do and this is how you get there.’”
Cefalu said that he knows he will be competing against athletes that are just as good as he, or better, and that he still has a lot of hard work to put in. “In college, everyone on the team has been the star at their high school,” he said. “It’s going to be tough for me to work up the ranks to be the starting quarterback. It’s not going to be handed to me.”
Cefalu said that South Tahoe as a town, his friends, his family and his coaches have been a huge part of his success. He added that he’s looking forward to getting moved and starting college, but knows he has to stay as focused as possible as a NCAA student athlete. “It’s going to be tough juggling all of these different things,” he said. “But it’s going to be beneficial in the long run.” Cefalu said he plans to work on strength and conditioning this fall, but will not be playing for USD until next year. He plans to major in business administration.
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