Football players have special gifts, some more obvious than others, especially if you consider the size of offensive linemen.
Servite High defensive back Keyon Riley has what college football recruiters refer to as “physical upside,” and that’s why UCLA signed him on National Signing Day Feb. 3. While Riley’s tool chest comes equipped with speed, strength and size, the Bruins also spotted his positive off-the-field work ethic and plan to include him in their bevy of safeties and cornerbacks for 2016.
“Riley is a good-looking athlete, about 6-foot-1, 200 pounds with a big frame,” writes the Bruin Report Online. “He runs well enough to play a slot corner for Servite and also played corner during the 7-on-7 circuit. He’s a physical player who can hit and plays with plenty of toughness. [A UCLA coach knows] his trainer well and he calls Riley one of the hardest-working kids he has, great compete level and tremendous desire to improve. He still needs to be coached and gain more experience. He didn’t play a ton as a junior after transferring in to Servite, but from a physical upside standpoint and a work ethic and leadership standpoint off the field, he has a very nice upside to him.”
Riley, who recorded 35 tackles, a pick six (interception returned for a touchdown), a forced fumble and a kickoff return for a touchdown last season, was selected first-team All-Trinity League and third-team All-Orange County for coach Scott Meyer’s Friars.
Riley was among six Servite student-athletes to sign a National Letter of Intent, following baseball players Sean Paquet (Loyola Marymount University) and Colin Conroy (Northwest Missouri State University) and basketball player Cameron Griffin (Biola), all three of whom signed earlier in the school year.
Riley’s gridiron teammate, cornerback Tre Webb, signed with San Jose State, while soccer players Garrett Amador (LMU), James Moore (Belmont Abbey College) and Zane Rojas (West Point) and water polo standout Jeff Sherer (UC Santa Barbara) also celebrated letter of intent signings.
Webb, a two-year starter for the Friars, earned second-team All-Trinity League in 2015, while recording 27 tackles and two interceptions in eight games.
The highly decorated Amador, a forward/defender and two-year starter for the Friars’ soccer team, was a significant contributor as a junior to Servite’s CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship, leading the Friars with 23 goals and 11 assists. He verbally committed last summer to Loyola Marymount.
While Amador can attack the goal and play great defense, his game-winning goal in last year’s CIF semifinal elevated him to hero status in Servite soccer lore. Amador scored on a looping 30-yard half volley, an “insane” play according to one account, because of how he caught the ball with the defensive pressure draped off his left shoulder and the perfect placement of the kick as Servite defeated Loyola High of Los Angeles, 3-2. The Friars advanced to the final, in which they beat El Toro.
Amador’s crazy kick was set up by a long pass from Kristopher Morgan. Amador played the pass off his chest and then drilled the ball just before it hit the ground a second time as it sailed over a surprised goalkeeper’s head.
Rojas, a defender, and Moore, a midfielder, also played on the Friars’ first CIF championship soccer team in 2015. The Friars, ranked ninth in the final Orange County Top 10 poll in 2016, won their third straight Trinity League championship this season and fourth in five years under coach Jon Spencer.
Moore, a two-year letter winner, played in 21 games last year and contributed five assists in 18 games this season. Belmont Abbey is a Division II Catholic college in Belmont, N.C.
Rojas, a four-year starter and captain of the team, has been an anchor of the Friars’ backline and earned first-team All-Trinity League his junior year. Rojas shined this season with a team-leading 10 assists.
In water polo, Sherer was a three-year letter winner, meriting second-team All-Trinity League as a junior and first-team all-league his senior year as a goalkeeper. Sherer was also named team Most Valuable Player in 2015, while averaging nine blocks a game.
Among the earlier signees, Paquet, a left-handed pitcher, verbally committed to LMU early in his junior year, “because I have always gone to a small private school,” he says. “LMU is a small college much like Servite is a small high school, so it seemed like the perfect fit for me.”
Servite second baseman Conroy verbally committed to Northwest Missouri State after visiting the Maryville, Mo., school last fall and signing with the Division II Bearcats shortly thereafter.
Griffin, a 6’5” forward who can also play the three or a swing position, averaged 14.4 points per game for coach John Morris’ basketball team in 2015-16. Griffin plans to major in business at Biola and hopes one day to help run his dad’s business.