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Mr. Titan, Tony Jefferson, headed to Cotton Bowl with Sooners Trent Warren | Fri, Jan 04 2013 01:19 PM

Head coach John McFadden and his assistant coaches have done a remarkable job with the Eastlake High School football team. The Titans have won eight league titles since 2000 and two San Diego Section Division I championships — 2009 and 2012.

While much of the credit goes to the coaching staff, it also wouldn’t be possible without the superb talent that the surrounding Eastlake community produces. That pedigree is now reflected in the number of EHS graduates who have gone on to play in major college programs.  

Tony Jefferson, perhaps the greatest of all Titans, will be spotlighted in Friday’s 77th annual AT&T Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, when his University of Oklahoma Sooners tackle Texas A&M. Kick-off is 5 p.m. PST on the Fox TV network.

No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 9 Texas A&M are both 10-2.

Now, what isn’t there to say about Jefferson?

A four-star recruit (ranked as the fourth-best safety by Rivals Recruiting), the 2010 U.S. Army All-American Bowl participant has found himself playing for the Sooners, a Division I powerhouse in the Big 12.

The Titan alum has excelled at the next level, leading the Sooners in tackles in the transition from strong safety to free safety.

He was named the 2010 Big 12 Freshman of the Year, earning first-team Freshman All-American honor in the process. In 2011, he led Oklahoma with four interceptions and ranked third on the team with 74 tackles.

In 2012, Jefferson set a career mark with his team-leading 113 tackles. He has recorded 3.5 tackles for a loss, one-half sack and two picks this season.

The national spotlight will be on Jefferson and the Oklahoma defense when the Sooners match up against Heisman Trophy-winner Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback, in sold-out Cowboys Stadium

OU has been to three bowl games since Jefferson’s arrival.

Jefferson led the Sooners defensively with seven tackles and one pass break-up in their 31-14 victory over Iowa to cap the 2011 season in the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.

He had two tackles and an interception for 22 yards in Oklahoma’s 48-20 victory against the Connecticut Huskies in the Fiesta Bowl to cap the 2010 season as the Sooners finished 12-2.

Clearly, Jefferson is the type of player who comes around once every decade on any high school football team. He is destined to play at the next level — the pros — whenever he decides to declare for the NFL Draft.            

I know I will be waiting to hear his name called.

EHS pigskin alums take it to the next level

Tony Jefferson isn’t the only former Eastlake High School football standout who has excelled at the collegiate level. Here’s a list of past Titans who have extended their pigskin careers past high school.

•Jose Baez (class of 2007) made six starts on the offensive line as a senior to help West Liberty University, a Division II school in West Virginia, finish 6-5 this year.

•Henry Simon (class of 2008) recorded 18 total tackles, one fumble recovery and one blocked kick his senior year at Iowa State, which finished the 2012-13 season with a 31-17 loss to Tulsa in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.

•Jordan Hines, Chris Fletcher and Fernando Cabico (class of 2011) are now at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Hines and Fletcher both received scholarships out of high school while Cabico walked onto the Mustangs squad this past spring. Cal Poly won the 2012 Big Sky Conference championship to earn a berth in the FCS playoffs, dropping an 18-16 decision to No. 1-ranked Sam Houston State in the second round. Fletcher, a cornerback, finished the season with 16 total tackles.

•Andrew Feaster (class of 2009) played at Southwestern College, leading the Jaguars in tackles and sacks before transferring to SDSU. He appeared in eight games in 2012 for the Aztecs, who dropped a 23-6 game to BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl.

•Marcus Mendillo (class of 2010) and Blake Zamora (class of 2008) now play for Division II Azusa Pacific. Mendillo, a junior, collected 11 tackles in 2012. Both were part of the Cougars team that lost 17-14 to defending national champion Carroll in the quarterfinals of the 2011 NAIA playoffs.

•D’Angelo Barksdale (class of 2010) is now playing wide receiver at the University of San Diego, two-time defending Pioneer League champions.

•Travis Gardner (class of 2012) joined the Nevada Wolfpack as a true freshman on a football scholarship. A tri-sport high school athlete (football, basketball and track and field), Gardner had yet to see any playing time his first year at UNR, which dropped a high-scoring 49-48 decision to Arizona in the New Mexico Bowl.

•Ruben Cardenas, Greg Alexander and Chester Radoc (class of 2009) all started at the community college level before making the trip to the University of St. Mary in Leavenworth, Kan., an NAIA school.

•Darran Hall Jr. (class of 2012) committed to Colorado State, where his father, Darran Hall Sr., played from 1997-98.

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