If you are not a Gold Club member and want to see the freshmen list below plus already announced All-State Junior & Sophomore Teams plus many, new updated state record files and more exclusive content, please sign up today. You can now join for three-month rate of just $9.99. For subscription info, CLICK HERE.
To order a commemorative, official All-State Football patch for those who’ve been named to one of our all-state teams for the 2017 season, go to this link from our friends at Billy Tees, which has been the official merchandiser of the CIF for many years.
If there’s one thing learned in nearly 40 years of covering California prep football, it’s that amazing stories and inspirational athletes can come from anywhere. That’s why there’s no hesitation in the selection of Foothill High of Sacramento defensive lineman T.J. Pesefua as the most inspirational player for the state for the 2017 season even though Foothill won only one game all season.
Pesefua overcame being involved in a serious car accident when he was eight years old that nearly cost him his life plus a stabbing that nearly took the life of his father and other obstacles to become a team leader and Division I college prospect.
The 6-foot-5, 275-pounder averaged nearly six tackles per game for the Mustangs last season and had two blocked punts with one caused fumble. He was a three-year team captain and three-year all-leaguer and this year was third team All-State Medium Schools. Pesefua, who also plays basketball and was second in his league last spring in the shot put, had early offers from two Pac-12 colleges and was looking into UC Davis. With a family not familiar with the recruiting process and a new coach at Foothill as well, the offers weren’t there after the early November signing day. The good news for T.J. is that one of the state’s best community college programs at American River College (which played in the state final last season) is only a few miles away.“I’ve been on the staff for five years and he’s definitely been our inspirational leader,” said Foothill head coach Anthony Eustace. “He handles all of our talking before and after games and he leads the kids in prayers.”
Pesefua’s accident occurred when he was eight years old and the family was living in the East Bay. There was a narrow driveway between apartments in which T.J. was playing. According to an account provided by T.J.’s brother, Nick Pesefea-Chang, the young boy had fallen off a four-wheel dolly at the bottom of a slope when an unsuspecting neighbor was in reverse leaving the parking lot.
“I can remember my dad and I yelling so loud and watching as my brother laid flat as the rear end of the car knocked him on the ground,” Nick wrote. “Then you see as the car continued to push over his body. First the rear tires then the acceleration over his body.
“As the car was off, we rushed to my brother’s side as he was choking on his own blood. Arms, chest, and face all covered in his blood. Clothes torn from his body and cuts in his torso. I can remember as my brother begged my dad to help him. He kept saying ‘Daddy I don’t want to die, Daddy I don’t want to die.’ There was a serious moment when TJ completely blacked out. No responses and no breathing. My dad had gone through CPR training and did what he was taught.”
T.J. went to Children’s Hospital in Oakland with injuries ranging from a fractured skull, ruptured spleen, massive skin lacerations on his forearm and face, structural facial damage, teeth placement, pulmonary contusion and much more.
“He wasn’t expected to survive,” Nick said. “The doctors called him Rubber Boy.”
T.J. did survive and three weeks later he was discharged. Eventually, he resumed being a kid under age 10. The family also moved to the Sacramento area. All was fine until one night five years ago when T.J.’s father was involved in a bar fight. He was jumped, mugged and stabbed seven times later in the parking lot. The family was told T.J.’s father lost 70 percent of his blood but he held on just like the son did a few years earlier.
Since T.J. has been at Foothill, he hasn’t let any of those difficulties deter him from trying to do the best that he can. He didn’t leave his teammates or friends to transfer to a school with a stronger program. He knew he had a role to play in their lives as well. We know there others like him all across California, but we hope the others will see T.J.’s story and realize they are not alone.