After a fantastic season, the majority of Menlo senior football players will be playing collegiate football. Photo courtesy of Jack McNally.
By Emilio Simbeck and Jack Gold
In spite of lots of uncertainty surrounding the 2016 Knights football team at the start of the season, Menlo -- who had a record low eight seniors -- ended up turning its small team into an elite group who went 11-2 en route to an appearance in the CCS championship. At the high-school level, the seniors thrived, and many of them will now pursue continued success on the field and in the classroom at the collegiate level.
A staggering 75 percent of the seniors will continue their careers at the next level in college. Having such a high percentage of athletes advance speaks volumes for the program, coaches, and players who are working hard and putting themselves on the radar of collegiate programs.
The list of the seniors and their respective universities is as follows: (Evan King/University of California at Berkeley, Hayden Pegley/Vanderbilt, Jack McNally/Occidental, Charlie Ferguson/Middlebury, Roberto Alarcon/Chapman or Puget Sound, Julian Garcia-Mendez/Foothill).
“I think it is a real testament to the coaches at Menlo,” Occidental-bound defensive back Jack McNally said. All of the players cited the large role that the Menlo staff played in getting them on the radars of college coaches. “Coach Todd and Coach Newton have done so much for me; they have spent countless hours reaching out to coaches, and I can’t thank them enough,” wide receiver Evan King said.
“One of the things that Menlo prioritizes is being program players,” quarterback Hayden Pegley said. He stressed that each player built off of the success of the coaches and players around him, who were devoted to putting the team first.
Although often times coaches reach out to college coaches in an effort to improve their reputation and that of their program, the Menlo coaches went above and beyond. “Gary Riekes, a junior varsity coach, went all the way down with me to visit Occidental in Los Angeles, which is pretty awesome,” McNally said.
Head coach Mark Newton has been actively involved in college recruitment for as long as he’s been coaching football. “I made it a primary focus of mine to help students to find a college that was the right fit for them and the right choice for them,” Newton said. “If a student-athlete is really interested and asks for my help, I will do everything I can to help them.”
Because of Newton’s past work at elite Nike football camps, he has developed relationships with many college football coaches. “Building up trust with these coaches has helped a lot so that when I make a phone call we can have a good conversation and make some progress,” Newton said.
Charlie Ferguson, a three-year varsity starting running back who watched two of his brothers pass through the program before him, cited the upperclassmen as guiding figures during his maturation into a young adult. “The leadership I learned [at Menlo] watching the captains and older guys before me, and then myself getting the chance to be a leader and a captain this past year was very [formative],” Ferguson said. “I will definitely apply what I’ve learned [when I get to] college.”
On top of the six seniors who are committed to play in college, junior JH Tevis has verbally committed to the University of California at Berkeley. Tevis tied for 22nd in the country with 22.5 sacks in his junior season and is poised to continue his success with the Knights as a senior and with the Golden Bears in the four years to follow.
After such a fruitful season for the Knights, the varsity program has attracted even more players for the 2017 season, where they hope to attain the same success.