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The Daily News of Los Angeles
IRVINE — Some 450 high school seniors, hoping to continue playing football at the next level, took part in the sixth annual California Showcase on Saturday at the Great Park of Orange County in Irvine.
The participants, bypassed on national signing day Feb. 7 by Division I colleges, showed off their skills during three-plus hours of drills in the morning, then in the afternoon met with recruiters from Division II, Division III and NAIA schools from throughout the county, plus recruiters from local junior colleges.
Spearheaded by former UCLA coach Terry Donahue and backed by the National Football Foundation, the free one-day California Showcase has now attracted some 3,000 student athletes in its first six years of existence. For the most part, lower-division schools do not offer athletic scholarships, but can offer financial aid in some form. About 25 percent of Showcase participants obtain aid, with the average now around $23,000.
Volunteer "staff coaches," mostly former NFL and college players along with some current and former high school and college coaches, work with the participants during the drill sessions.
Among those on hand Saturday was national high school coach of the year Bruce Rollinson of nationally top-ranked Mater Dei.
"This is a great event," Rollinson said. "For a lot of kids who have had good high school careers, it's a reality check when they don't get a scholarship from a school in Division I-AA, or whatever they call it now. This gives them a second chance, and Coach Donahue and everyone involved deserve tremendous credit for what they are doing here."
Participant Jake Kaplinski, a quarterback from Westlake High in Westlake Village who carries a 3.8 grade-point average, said, "I'm looking for a school that will provide me with the best education, and I think a lot of those schools can be found in the lower divisions."
An unexpected perk Saturday was an inspirational talk first thing in the morning from legendary coach Lou Holtz, who was in the area to be honored Saturday night by Anaheim Servite High.
Before the afternoon recruiting sessions, Donahue offered this advice: "Treat your meetings with the recruiters as if they are job interviews. Offer a handshake, tell them your name, make a good impression. That will go a long way in getting into a school and impacting your life."
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