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MICHAEL GOULDING , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Fountain Valley lineman Keiti Iakopo, right, and his cousin, former NFL player Kelly Talavau, hang out in the Barons weight room. Iakopo was the Sunset League's defensive player of the year this past season.

Recruiting notes: Iakopo keeps driving toward his goal

STAFF WRITER

It’s a goal that Keiti Iakopo can’t let go of, one that drives him through his days that end with him sleeping on the floor of a motel room.

The Fountain Valley defensive tackle dreams of playing college football and following the footsteps of his cousin, former NFL player Kelly Talavou, to a better life for himself and his family.

“My family has been in and out of motels for my whole life,” Iakopo said. “That’s why I play football. So I can take my family out of there.”

Few interior linemen in Orange County played with more force and passion than Iakopo (5-11, 290) in the fall. He made second-team All-County after recording 11 sacks and was voted the Sunset League’s defensive player of the year.

O.C.'s Top Football Recruits for 2016

He has drawn recruiting interest from Big Sky Conference champion Southern Utah and Idaho State. Both schools are waiting to offer him a scholarship, said Ray Fenton, Fountain Valley’s coach last season.

“His highlight film is just amazing,” Fenton added. “They just can’t block him. … He’s got great leverage. His hands are outstanding with the moves.”

Iakopo climbed the ranks of county football while living with his family in motels in the Orange County area. These days he shares a room with his parents and three older sisters.

Iakopo is the youngest of his father’s nine children.

Over the year, the family has had financial and employment challenges, and it has gone through multiple moves during Iakopo’s high school years.

He attended Anaheim as a freshman, Tustin as a sophomore and he’s been at Fountain Valley for the past two years.

Iakopo said his family draws strength from its Catholic faith, praying together each night. In the family’s Samoan culture, the prayer is called, “Loku.”

“That’s what keeps us close,” Iakopo said.

He also draws inspiration from Talavou, who played at Fountain Valley and returned to his alma mater to be an assistant coach.

“Me and my little cousins always talked about the Talavou family because they set the bar so high,” Iakopo said. “I always wanted to be like Kelly.”

He lived with Talavou last year. Talavou was an all-conference defensive tackle at Utah and spent four years in the NFL, playing three years with the Ravens. He also works as a special education aide at Edison.

Iakopo is on the cusp of following Iakopo’s path into college football. He is taking two college entry exams in the coming weeks with hopes of qualifying for Southern Utah, Idaho State or perhaps West Point. He hopes to sign sometime around National Signing Day on Feb. 3.

“I’m almost there,” said Iakopo, who had a sack in a recent Polynesian all-star game and also is wrestling at Fountain Valley.

“I didn’t think I was going to be good enough to get a scholarship out of high school because everyone said I was too short. ... Now that I have attention from colleges, I just want to prove them wrong.”

Fenton’s son, T.J., plays football at Southern Utah. Iakopo said he has already embraced the program’s unofficial motto.

“Embrace the suck,” he said. “That’s kind of what I’m doing right now. … I know there are a lot of people who have it a lot worse than I do. No point in whining about it.

“No one is dead. I still have my family and we have a roof over our head.”

Fenton said Iakopo’s drive sets him apart from other players.

“Guys like him, with great character, find a way to get through it and come out great,” Fenton said.

WEEKEND TRIPS

Tesoro quarterback Devon Modster (6-2, 220) will make an official recruiting trip to UCLA this weekend. Modster is a former Arizona commit. …

Mission Viejo quarterback Brock Johnson (6-2, 195), the Register’s offensive player of the year, is visiting Georgetown this weekend. …

La Habra quarterback Eric Barriere (6-0, 185) is visiting Sacramento State this weekend. ...

Villa Park wide receiver Brennan Corbin (6-4, 200) also is visiting Sacramento State this weekend and plans to make a trip to Montana next weekend, Spartans coach Dusan Ancich said. …

Los Alamitos offensive lineman Jacob Keller (6-2, 318) will visit Air Force this weekend. …

Buena Park linebacker Andrew Wright (6-3, 202) visited Fresno State on Friday, Coyotes coach Anthony White said. …

Orange Lutheran offensive lineman Alex Dalpe (6-3, 280) will visit Division II Minot State in North Dakota this weekend, Lancers coach Chuck Petersen said.

NOTES

Mater Dei offensive tackle Tommy Brown (6-7, 300) has been offered by Missouri, the sophomore tweeted Friday. The SEC school is the first to offer Brown. …

Buena Park sophomore Deshaun Harvey (6-0, 174) has been offered by nationally ranked NAIA Langston in Oklahoma, White said.

Buena Park quarterback Zach Taylor (6-0, 187) committed to Division III Oberlin in Ohio.

Contact the writer: dalbano@ocregister.com


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