Where Are They Now?
In less than two months we’ll be adding an 18th name to the Prestigious Silver Pigskin. It got us wondering as to how our 17 previous winners are doing. Here’s a quick update.
Elijah Preston (St. Augustine High School)
Preston earned St. Augustine’s second Silver Pigskin Award thanks to a school-record 2,244 yards and 29 touchdowns rushing. Second only to Imperial’s Royce Freeman in career rushing yards, Preston lead the Saints to four straight CIF Section Championship appearances. After initially committing to Cal Poly, the all-section running back decided to stay local and walk on at San Diego State. Preston insists that San Diego is his home for the future. “It’s here. It’s my hometown. I’m very excited. I’m ready to go to San Diego State hungry and ready to fight to earn a spot on the roster.”
DeChaun Holiday (Mission Hills High School)
The four-star athlete and CIF Defensive Player of the Year returned two interceptions for touchdowns during a senior campaign that saw Mission Hills advance to the CIF Open Division Semi-Finals. Ranked as a top-10 defensive back in the nation, Holiday currently plays corner for UCLA. Holiday spent time during his senior year participating at “Shooting Stars,” a local program that helps mentally disabled children play basketball. Of the experience, Holiday said “It’s important to give back because if I had a little brother or sister in need of assistance, I would want someone to be there for them.”
Royce Freeman (Imperial High School)
With a combined 7,606 rushing yards and 111 touchdowns on 645 carries (11.8 yards per carry), Freeman will go down as one of the best runners in CIF history. Along with his 111 career rushing touchdowns, Freeman added two interception returns and six receiving touchdowns. After four CIF quarterfinal appearances, Freeman committed to play at the University of Oregon. Currently a junior, Freeman has rushed for 3,714 yards and 42 touchdowns for the Ducks. On breaking the San Diego rushing record Freeman said, “It was an honor, especially doing it in front of my home crowd. I felt much appreciated. It means a lot coming from a small town.”
Israel "Tofi" Paopao (Oceanside High School)
With CIF titles in 2010 and 2012, Paopao cemented Oceanside as a North County dynasty. Thanks to 2,458 yards and 22 touchdowns through the air during his senior year, Paopao garnered collegiate respect. After playing briefly at Florida International University, Paopao transferred to Southwestern College, where he helped the team to a 10-1 record. Paopao’s scholarship to play at FIU was actually aided by former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia. “Jeff Garcia made it happen. I worked out with him during our bye week in the playoffs. He has great charisma. He liked what he saw and said he’d try to place me.”
Brandon Lewis (Helix Charter High School)
Along with completing 176 of 281 passes (63 percent) for 2,750 yards and 34 TDs against seven interceptions during his senior season, Lewis lead the Scotties to a CIF D-II championship win over Oceanside and a D-II state win over Del Oro. With those wins under his belt, Lewis took his talents to Alcala Park to play for USD. Lewis has the unique ability to be cordial off the field, but competitive on it. “I like to make people smile and laugh. I’m that kind of person,” Lewis said. “But I know when to bring it, and I know when it’s time to focus.”
Stefan McClure (Vista High School)
A 2-way starter, McClure was the key component to Vista High’s D1 section title. 13 TD catches on one side of the ball, 4 interceptions on the other. The CIF Defensive Player of Year also played in the US Army All American Game. McClure attended Cal where he graduated as the Bear’s only 3-year captain. When asked what makes a good leader McClure responded, "make sure your "yes" means yes and your "no" means no."
Dillon Baxter (Mission Bay High School)
Baxter completed 102-of-166 passes for 1,968 yards with 26 TDs and ran for a San Diego record 2,984 yards on 261 carries with 50 TDs while accounting for a state-record 79 touchdowns on offense in 2009. Mission Bay went 13-0 and won the CIF San Diego Division IV title. An early college standout at USC, Baker ran for 252 yards with 1 TD. Baxter transferred to SDSU then to Baker University, an NAIA program in Kansas. In the NFL, Baxter was invited to work out with the Seahawks and Chargers. " I’m still that same kid from Mission Bay High School that just loved to play football. I’ve had my ups and my downs but I learned a lot from my football experiences. It taught me life lessons you can’t learn anywhere else."
Tyler Gaffney (Cathedral High School)
Gaffney lead the Dons to CIF San Diego Section and State titles thanks to 2,866 rushing yards and 48 touchdowns with 26 receptions for 428 yards and eight touchdowns. Gaffney excelled in baseball at Stanford, but was drafted in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers for his 2,500 career rushing yards and 38 total touchdowns on the gridiron. In the NFL, Gaffney spent time with the Panthers before shipping off to New England to join the Patriots. Before his performance in the 2014 Rose Bowl, Gaffney said, “You grow up watching the Rose Bowl, especially as a West Coast kid. This year I’m in the game. This is all you can ask for.”
Nelson Rosario (El Camino High School)
A CIF champion in the long jump and triple jump, Rosario utilized his leaping abilities as a receiver and kick returner for the Wildcats. Rosario’s massive 6-foot-6 frame allowed him to be a playmaker all over the field. Rosario played collegiately at UCLA and thrived as one of the Bruins’ primary receivers. Rosario’s 64 catches for 1,161 yards and five touchdowns during his senior season deemed him worthy of NFL consideration. Rosario signed with both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers. “I’m a really competitive person and I’ll do whatever it takes to win. When others do well, it takes me to another level. I kind of like that pressure.”
Ryan Lindley (El Capitan High School)
During his senior campaign, Lindley completed 61 percent of his passes (235-for-385) for 3,521 yards and 35 touchdowns, leading the Vaqueros to a league title and an 11-1 record. Lindley signed on with the San Diego State Aztecs and passed for 12,690 career yards and 90 touchdowns in four seasons as the Aztecs starter. Lindley was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the sixth round and started six games, accumulating 1,314 yards and two touchdowns. On his return to El Capitan in 2014, Lindley said “You always remember where you came from. This is where it all started. This is where you had fun playing with all of your buddies. It feels great to be back.”
Abraham Muheize (El Cajon Valley High School)
His senior season featured a record-setting campaign that featured Muheize passing for 4,047 yards and 41 touchdowns, and rushing for 1,150 yards and 13 touchdowns, along with 10 interceptions, five passes defended 118 tackles, four tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries. Opting to play at Grossmont College, Muheize earned first-team all-conference honors and finished out his career at Central Washington. Winning the Silver Pigskin remains a highlight of Muheize’s life. “It was a very exciting moment in my life. It changed my life completely. People would come up to me and say ‘Hey! You’re the guy who won the silver trophy on KUSI.’ It’s definitely been life-changing.”
Jake Fadden (Hilltop High School)
Jake Fadden started from humble beginnings at Hilltop. The top-ranked quarterback in the South Bay, Fadden was a dual-threat quarterback for a Lancers team that wasn’t shy about “ringing the bell.” Fadden excelled at Mt. San Antonio College in Los Angeles, earning all-conference honors while leading the Mounties to a win over the Orange Coast College Pirates in the 2006 Beach Bowl. After leaving Mt. SAC, Fadden interned at PPR and, after earning his broadcast journalism degree at Arizona State, has been hooked on prep football coverage ever since. To receive the Silver Pigskin was, “a huge honor, especially for Hilltop. To be in the company of current and former NFL players who have also been winners and nominees was truly amazing.”
Patrick Gates (Marian Catholic High School)
Gates not only averaged 12.7 yards per attempt, but also led Marian Catholic to consecutive undefeated seasons and CIF titles. His 1,938 yards and 21 TDs earned him a spot playing for Rocky Long at San Diego State. Gates spent time at Orange County’s Saddleback College where he was named a first-team junior college All-American as a sophomore after rushing for 1,059 yards and 16 touchdowns. He finished his collegiate career at Michigan’s Grand Valley State. “I remember doing a PPR Open with Father Joe. I was pretending to me in confession. Rudy was crazy back in those days.”
Jose Perez (Oceanside High School)
Oceanside’s Jose Perez dazzled during his time as a Pirate, catching a combined 127 passes during his junior and senior years. Perez and his 27 career touchdown receptions still rank ninth-best in San Diego history. Past Oceanside and a CIF title his senior year; Perez was drafted in the seventh round to play for the Yankees. After three seasons in rookie ball, Perez committed to play at SDSU as a cornerback. The Oceanside native even landed a spot with the 2011 Miami Dolphins. Of his time in baseball, Perez said “It was worth it because the Yankees were one of the teams I loved growing up, and getting a chance to play for them was a great opportunity for me. But it worked out both ways."
Reggie Bush (Helix High School)
As a senior, he ran for 1,691 yards on 140 carries with 27 TDs in 2002 despite missing four games with a broken wrist. In his career, Bush ran for 4,995 yards and scored 450 points, while also excelling at the 50, 100 and 200-meter dashes. At top-ranked USC, Bush was instrumental in a 2005 BCS National Championship campaign that saw the running back win the Heisman Trophy with his 2,218 yards from scrimmage and 18 total touchdowns. After three seasons with the Trojans, Bush was drafted second overall by New Orleans. 10 years and one Super Bowl ring later, Bush is still in the NFL. Recalling his first interview with the PPR, Bush said “I was so nervous. I don’t even know if I made sense. I was fumbling over my words, but my very first interview ever was with the PPR.”
Ryan Gonzalez (St. Augustine High School)
After an outstanding senior season at St. Augustine, the dual-threat running back committed to Occidental College in Eagle Rock, California. As the starting running back, Gonzalez finished his career with 1,337 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns with 216 yards and three touchdowns receiving. The former Saint experienced his best season in 2004 when he rushed for 649 yards and a career-high 19 touchdowns. Gonzalez’s 1,337 career rushing yards rank 11th all-time in Occidental history. Since graduating from Oxy, Ryan Gonzalez has built a successful career in financial planning out in El Cajon.
Patrick Konen (Patrick Henry High School)
The free safety dominated opposing offenses with his hard hitting and cat-like defensive reflexes. Konen’s big game against Rancho Bernardo early in the season put the safety and PHHS on the PPR radar. Konen was offered a chance to play in college in Los Angeles, but turned it down to coach football locally and attend San Diego State. At Adairsville High School, Konen is the offensive coordinator of a football team that has had five-straight playoff appearances. Of his experience with the PPR, Konen said “At that time, PPR was still in its infancy. You had this wild man with a vision in Paul Rudy. And that moment where I was selected to get the award was really a whirlwind.”
We’ll learn the identity of the 18th name to be etched on the side of the Prestigious Silver Pigskin Saturday December 17th, aboard the USS Midway Museum. That is the night with San Diego’s high school football community will gather for the 2016 Silver Pigskin Gala. It will be here in a flash!
Paul W. Rudy/PPR