With more former players in the NFL than any other high school, Long Beach Poly High School in southern California consistently produces talented athletes. Raul Lara has been the coach and offensive coordinator at Cal Poly and has coached several NFL players including Willie McGinest, Marcedes Lewis and DeSean Jackson.
Recently, Lara talked with The State Press about Richard Smith, Josiah Blandin, Matthew Rowe and Salamo Fiso, who all opted to play football at ASU next season.
The State Press: Obviously four of your former players are coming to ASU next season. What do you expect from them at the next level?
RL: I expect them to go to ASU and do the things their coach wants them to do and to do it at their best ability. Hopefully do real well not only on the football field, but on the academic side of things as well.
SP: They all chose ASU for their own reasons, but why do you think this it is a good fit for the four of them?
RL: It’s an opportunity to not only continue their education, but to play Pac-12 football. I think ASU is one of the better schools in the Pac-12 and I think the decision that they made was a good one. I hope it’s a good fit for them and that they continue their success, do well and blossom over there.
SP: How special is it for you and the Cal Poly program to have four kids go to one spot rather than if they had all gone to different schools?
RL: Regardless if four of them go to one school or they all go to different schools, we’re proud of them for accomplishing their goals. A lot of kids come into our program seeking an athletic scholarship and we’re really, really proud and happy that they were able to do that.
It does make it special that they’re at the same school because they can continue their friendship and support one another. Having four there, for us as a program, maybe we go up and watch ASU’s spring practice or something like that because we have four guys there and it’s pretty neat to have something like that.
SP: How unique is this situation?
RL: This has happened before with us. We get a lot of kids going to USC and UCLA because it’s local, but this is the first time, for a school that’s not in the area, that this has happened to us.
SP: The two receivers (Josiah) Blandin and (Richard) Smith, what stands out about them?
RL: I keep telling everybody when Richard Smith was at Poly he reminded me so much of DeSean Jackson. He has that little wiggle that DeSean had and obviously he’s very fast too. He’s a very explosive kid.
Josiah’s a little different. Josiah has size that we are not accustomed to at Poly. He brought a different element to us with his size and being a great route runner. Josiah still needs to get a little bit bigger. He needs to get in the weight room, but if he gets in the weight room I think he will be a great asset for ASU.
SP: ASU does not have a lot of experience returning at the receiver position. How ready are these two to play right away?
RL: That’s something that we are really proud of and take pride in at Poly. We try to prepare these guys so well that when they have an opportunity to go to the next level they can play right away. We have a history of that so hopefully those two are ready to go. Like I said, if Josiah can deal with the physicality of the next level, he’ll be ready to go.
SP: Now to the other side of the ball. What’s special about (Salamo) Fiso and (Matthew) Rowe?
RL: Salamo has a nose for the ball. He has been playing with us for three years, same with Matthew, but Salamo is a true inside linebacker that has a nose for the ball. He will find the ball, he will make some plays.
Matthew is more of a true outside linebacker where he can actually rush the quarterback and drop into coverage. They’re two different kinds of backers, but what they do, they do real well and I’m pretty sure they’re going to do real well at ASU.
SP: With his brothers, Matthew had sort of a unique advantage growing up, how did that help him?
RL: Growing up he had two brothers, one went to ‘SC and the other went to Oregon so he obviously has a little experience of what is expected and how to play ball at that level because he’s watching both of them. Experience like that is going to help him tremendously at ASU.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com