Julius Thomas of the Denver Broncos, who we once chose for Division I all-state honors in basketball, along with Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks, who we wrote about last weekend, tops group of 22 (one of the highest totals ever).
RELATED: Remembering Dominguez 2005
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During the 2006 basketball season, one of the top teams in Northern California was at Tokay High of Lodi. The Tigers had a well-balanced team that included two excellent swingmen in 6-foot-4 sophomore D.J. Seeley (he later played at Cal) and 6-foot-4 senior Jordan Hawley plus an effective senior point guard in 5-foot-10 Mike Caffese. Tokay also had a power-packed 6-foot-5, 225-pound center named Julius Thomas.
One of the biggest games Tokay played that season was at home against Modesto Christian, another NorCal powerhouse at the time. The gym was packed to the rafters and the two teams battled closely throughout.
In watching Thomas, with his physique and athleticism, it was hard not to wonder if he played football. People at Tokay at the time said, “No, he doesn’t play football.” They were no doubt asked hundreds of times.
Modesto Christian eventually won that game 69-64, but Tokay went on to capture the school’s first and only CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title with a win over Modesto (Modesto Christian was in a different division). The Tigers then went to the CIF Northern California Division I playoffs and eventually lost to De La Salle of Concord.
Thomas was a frequent double-double machine and was the team’s top honors candidate. He was chosen to the 2006 Cal-Hi Sports Division I all-state team. Listed alphabetically, the player named right behind Thomas was guard Russell Westbrook from Leuzinger of Lawndale, who is now one of the best point guards in the NBA.
As a 6-foot-5 power forward who had enjoyed much basketball success, it wasn’t surprising that Thomas wanted to continue to play the sport in college. He hadn’t yet tried football other than as a frosh-soph player at Tokay so he went to Portland State to play basketball. It was only later at Portland State when Thomas went back to football.
“I was at the school at the time as a frosh-soph coach and Julius came out,” said current Tokay football coach Louis Franklin. “As Julius was practicing, I was immediately drawn to him because of his size and speed. He was just more of a basketball player then.”
Franklin said his phone has been ringing off the hook with media calls regarding Thomas after his current team, the Denver Broncos, earned a bid to play in this year’s Super Bowl.
“It’s a pretty big deal around here,” he said. “It’s great because nobody knew of him even at the beginning of this season. But he’s a rare talent who works hard.”
CALIFORNIA SUPER BOWL ALUMNI 2014
Note: Compared to other states this year, it’s California in a romp. The state’s total of 22 far surpasses Texas with 12 and Florida with 10. This doesn’t include both head coaches – John Fox of the Broncos from Castle Park of Chula Vista and Pete Carroll of the Seahawks from Redwood of Larkspur.
(All players listed in alphabetical order)
C.J. Anderson (Bethel, Vallejo)
He was the Vallejo Times-Herald Athlete of the Year and eventually landed as a running back at Cal, which had an amazing run of big-time players at the position that include Marshawn Lynch, Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen. C.J. made the Broncos’ roster as an undrafted free agent.
Omar Bolden (Colony, Ontario)
Star running back-defensive back at Colony (who is now a DB for the Broncos) is one year younger than Seahawks’ linebacker Bobby Wagner, who also is from Colony. They combined to help the 2005 team win the CIF Southern Section Central Division title. Two other schools this year — another from California (read below) and one from Virginia — also have two former players in this year’s Super Bowl.
Aaron Brewer (Troy, Fullerton)
Brewer’s school is the other one in the state with two players in this year’s Super Bowl. He was a 6-foot-5 defensive end/linebacker for the Warriors in the 2007 season and is now the long-snapper for the Broncos. Troy’ star player was running back Derrick Coleman (who now plays for the Seahawks).
Derrick Coleman (Troy, Fullerton)
After graduating from Troy, Coleman went on to UCLA. His story of making it to the NFL for Seattle as a deaf player has inspired many other hearing-impaired young athletes. With Brewer and Coleman, one of Troy’s losses in a 5-4 season was to La Habra (led by Ronnie Hillman, who is now one of Brewer’s Bronco teammates).
Heath Farwell (Corona)
The back-up middle linebacker and special teams player for the Seahawks is usually the player carrying the “12th Man” flag in front of the team as it takes the field.
Sione Fua (Crespi, Encino)
After starring for the Celts in the 2005 season, Fua went to Stanford and never missed a beat even though he skipped the 2007 season to go on a church mission. Fua was initially drafted by the Carolina Panthers and was eventually waived. He was signed earlier this season by the Broncos due to injuries in their defensive line. Fua also was a CIF state champion in the heavyweight division in wrestling.
Virgil Green (Tulare Union, Tulare)
The Broncos’ tight end is the first player from Tulare to appear in a Super Bowl. He had 109 catches for 1,729 yards and 16 TDs in his prep career and then went to the University of Nevada where he caught passes from Colin Kaepernick.
Caylin Hauptmann (Beverly Hills)
He is a former 60-foot shot putter and football player for the Normans, who had a Super Bowl player just three years ago in linebacker Spencer Paysinger of the New York Giants. Hauptmann joined the Seahawks’ offensive line as an undrafted rookie in September due to injuries.
Ronnie Hillman (La Habra)
He is in his second season as a running back for the Broncos. Hillman was a multi-sport standout at La Habra, then went to San Diego State where he was among the national leaders in rushing yards per game.
Duke Ihenacho (Serra, Gardena)
The Broncos’ DB has a brother, Glen, who was a standout on Serra’s team that finished 13-1 last fall. Serra also will be represented in the game by Kris Richard, the defensive backs coach of the Seahawks. Duke didn’t play at Serra until his junior year and is another great story of late-blooming determination.
Malik Jackson (Birmingham, Van Nuys)
Malik and his twin brother Marcus helped anchor the defense on Birmingham’s 2006 team that won the L.A. City Section title. He’s now a 6-5, 295-pound defensive lineman for the Broncos.
Winston Justice (Poly, Long Beach)
He is one of three solid NFL regulars who played on Poly’s storied 2001 CIF Southern Section Big 5 Conference title team. The other two are lineman Manuel Wright and tight end Marcedes Lewis. Justice has been a member of Broncos’ offensive line just since the beginning of this season. They signed him when Ryan Clardy (Rialto Eisenhower grad) went down with a knee injury.
Marshawn Lynch (Oakland Tech, Oakland)
We were there at the NorCal Nike Camp prior to Lynch’s senior year when he broke out with an MVP performance for the running backs. He later scored five TDs for the Bulldogs when they won the Silver Bowl title at the Oakland Coliseum. So for us, the Seahawks’ star running back has been in “Beast Mode” for quite a long time.
Benson Mayowa (Inglewood)
The defensive end for the Seahawks was not a big-time recruit for the Sentinels although he did get 11 sacks and 75 tackles as a senior. He ended up at Idaho and after that went to the NFL as a free agent. He’s another great example of making it to a Super Bowl as a player without any hoopla from any other time in his career.
Brandon Mebane (Crenshaw, Los Angeles)
By making it into the Super Bowl and by being from Crenshaw, the Seahawks’ defensive lineman has helped the Cougars move to No. 1 on the list of California schools with the most Super Bowl alums. Mebane makes it seven former Crenshaw players who’ve been in the game (RB Wendell Tyler probably has been most famous). Crenshaw moves past Compton, Lincoln of San Diego and Los Angeles, who all have six Super Bowl alums. Crenshaw’s total of seven might even be first in the nation.
DeShawn Shead (Highland, Palmdale)
The Seahawks’ DB was a college teammate of the Broncos’ Julius Thomas at Portland State. In addition to playing football at Highland, Shead also competed as a pole vaulter for the track team and set a school record.
Richard Sherman (Dominguez, Compton)
For more on the Seahawks’ sensational DB, CLICK HERE.
Malcolm Smith (Taft, Woodland Hills)
As a player coming up at Taft, Malcolm was in the shadow of older brother Steve Smith (who set the state record for career receiving TDs and yards). He was strong enough in his own right to get a scholarship to USC. He hopes to win a Super Bowl with the Seahawks as a linebacker after Steve won one as a receiver with the New York Giants three years ago.
Julius Thomas (Tokay, Lodi)
While Thomas didn’t play football in college, his father, Greg, played at nearby University of the Pacific in Stockton. At Pacific, Greg Thomas was coached by young assistant Pete Carroll. One of the two will win a Super Bowl on Sunday – Thomas as tight end for the Denver Broncos or Carroll as head coach for the Seattle Seahawks.
Walter Thurmond (West Covina)
He was the top player on West Covina’s 2004 team that won a CIF Southern Section title. He wasn’t just a defensive back like he is now for the Seahawks, but also shined on offense and special teams. Before making it in the NFL, Thurmond played in college at Oregon.
Robert Turbin (Irvington, Fremont)
He was a more honored player in high school as a defensive back, but at Utah State (where he played with future Seahawks’ teammate Bobby Wagner) Turbin was a prolific running back. He was a fourth-round pick by Seattle two years ago.
Bobby Wagner (Colony, Ontario)
Despite getting 125 tackles on defense and catching 11 TD passes on offense, Wagner wasn’t a big-time recruit coming out of Colony. In fact, his only offer reportedly was from Utah State, which is where he went. He’s now regarded as one of the top young linebackers in football. He was a second round pick by the Seahawks at the 2012 NFL draft.
Head Coach John Fox (Castle Park, Chula Vista)
Castle Park has had a player make it to the Super Bowl – offensive lineman Steve Riley of Minnesota Vikings in the 1970s.
Head Coach Pete Carroll (Redwood, Larkspur)
He was a three-sport standout at Redwood and was a classmate of comedy legend Robin Williams. Carroll then went to College of Marin before playing for two years at Pacific.