Servite's Bijon Samoodi runs back an interception against Crespi.

Real signing drama comes outside spotlight

Real signing drama comes outside spotlight

The Orange County Register
National Signing Day isn't just televised press conferences. Sometimes it's a roller coaster like the one ridden by Servite's Bijon Samoodi.

His dreams were USC and UCLA. His bottom line, the one he signed Wednesday morning and then faxed to San Luis Obispo, was Cal Poly.

For Bijon Samoodi, the Servite defensive back, this whole process wasn't just recruiting. It was repositioning. Regrouping and reconsidering. Sometimes, regretting.

Eventually there was relief. He was comfortable with Cal Poly, a Division I-AA (or whatever they're calling it) program that came within one point - and any one of three missed field goals - of winning at Wisconsin.

"And I'm already looking forward to our two games against Division I-A's," Samoodi said Wednesday night. "San Jose State and San Diego State. I want to show them what they missed out on."

Recruiting is like that. It's a snow globe that takes months to clear up.

Lee Samoodi, Bijon's father, admits he went through a tougher wringer than Bijon did, getting excited when the phone would ring from Brigham Young, getting worried when it didn't ring again.

"It's a tough process, because there isn't a lot of communication," he said. "We heard from Fresno State, from SMU. San Diego State was interested and then they fired their coaching staff.

"I will say that USC and UCLA and Cal were out front. They said, look, he's 5-foot-8. We don't recruit players at that position who are that small. At least they were honest. But then I look at Darren Sproles (the 5-6 Chargers' back). So I don't think you can just measure a player like that."

At UCLA, Samoodi could have played with Mission Viejo's Alex Mascarenas, his teammate on a powerful Huntington Beach Pop Warner team. But USC and UCLA wanted Samoodi as a preferred walk-on. Translation: You pay, and you might not play.

The Samoodis weren't interested, not with palpable offers out there from Division I-AA's like Stony Brook and Montana State.

"I wanted to go Pac-10," Bijon said. "Washington wanted some tape of me and said they were going to call me, but they never did. Finally it came down to Cal Poly and Air Force, which is a higher level of competition. I visited there and the players and coaches were cool, but I didn't think the town was for me."

"He wasn't into the military thing," Lee said. "We're happy. It's good football up there, and we can see most of his games."

"Four or five years living in San Luis Obispo for free? I could take that," said Servite coach Troy Thomas, laughing.

Thomas was the go-between for all the Friars, reading the tea leaves for his players, selling his players to college coaches. He was an assistant at Hawaii and Fresno State.

On Wednesday morning he and Zach Burge were on the same pins and needles. Burge, an offensive lineman, was going down to the wire with Army. The Cadets called in the morning and told him, "You're in the Army now."

Army's coach is Rich Ellerson, who was at Cal Poly last year. Cal Poly's new coach is Tim Walsh, Army's offensive coordinator last year. All those overlaps must have helped.

Thomas is hoping that eight of the '08 Friars will wind up playing college football somewhere, to go with 27 over the past three years.

Thomas was happy for Samoodi but still wished the big boys could see beneath the kid's growth chart.

"Look, I get it," he said. "I believe it when schools say that if Bijon had been 5-10 it wouldn't be an issue. But I also know Bijon can play for any of those programs.

"I'm always talking to our players to explain what's going on. Oregon might get a commitment. Then the kid de-commits. Now it's late and Oregon's going after the kids BYU wanted. They get one and now BYU is dropping down. So it filters all the way down, and the college coaches are changing their priorities. I just tell our kids to wait it out, be patient."

Those are the real stories of Signing Day, not the headliners who get to announce on ESPNU.

"We had Chris Gallippo, Matt Kalil and D.J. Shoemate who announced early (to USC)," Thomas said. "Well, you didn't have to be much of a talent scout to know they were going to play. Not everybody is like that. There's a lot of anxiety."

What if Lee Samoodi had another crack at this?

"I'd definitely get started earlier, get Bijon's name in front of and when he was a sophomore," he said. "I think he would have gotten a lot of attention then. And then I would have tried to get him to get it done earlier. It can be a real distraction."

Bijon himself? He's a DB. He didn't get rattled. Now he heads to the football field, where there is no height requirement, and he's the one who makes bells ring.

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