Whenever 6-foot-4, 210-pound football and basketball standout Drake London went on a college recruiting visit this summer, he wore a black T-shirt that read, “Just a kid from Moorpark.”
It reminded everyone that “I’m homegrown; that I’m from the roots of my city,” he explained.
As the high school football season begins next week, the USC-bound London might be the best two-sport athlete in California. Combine his athleticism with his humility, loyalty and determination and you have “a once-in-a-generation type of kid,” Moorpark football coach Ryan Huisenga said.
“The best thing about him is his character and the way he handles himself. He’s a good student and stays on a level ground and surrounds himself with a good group of friends and is extremely loyal.”
On the first day of spring practice in May, you could see how London influenced teammates with his personality and presence. Wearing a black cutoff shirt, gray shorts and white cleats, he towered over everyone.
“A satellite can see him,” one college recruiter joked.
One teammate after another was drawn to him to offer a high-five, a handshake, a chest bump or a one-liner of teenage chat. It makes you laugh at the idea that he would ever leave Moorpark for another football or basketball powerhouse even though plenty asked.
“It wasn’t hard to say no,” he said. “I love the school, the friends. Why change schools if I’m doing great?”
In basketball, Virginia and USC were among the schools that wanted to add his explosiveness and shooting skills. In football, USC, UCLA and Virginia were among the more than 17 schools convinced his abilities as a receiver are legit.
He ended up accepting a football scholarship to USC but also plans to play basketball.
“His basketball skills help him tremendously on the football field with the way he can handle his body, like posting up or trying to get open,” Huisenga said. “His physicality and the way he likes to block is impressive and rare at the high school level.”
Even rarer is London refusing so far to abandon the idea of trying to play two sports in college.
“I’ve always wanted to play both sports in college,” he said. “It’s undecided right now with my family, but that’s always been my goal as a little kid to put on a football jersey in front of thousands of people and a basketball jersey in front of thousands of people.”
He has pulled it off during high school with little trouble, and being a multisport athlete has helped with both sports.
In football, his basketball skills aid his receiving talent in terms of hand-eye coordination, jumping and lateral movement.
“In basketball, you have to box out a person to get a rebound and if you’re going up for a jump ball and you have a DB on you, it’s the same basic principle except now you’re catching it for a touchdown,” he said.
In basketball, his football skills have been beneficial in terms of strength, conditioning and learning about toughness.
“Working different muscles has gotten me stronger,” he said.
He has lived in Moorpark since he was 3. He was a 5-11 quarterback on the freshman team, then had a growth spurt and played running back on junior varsity as a sophomore. As a junior, he came into his own as a receiver, catching 51 passes for 1,032 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has been engaged in a balancing act with the two sports during the summer.
“June is my football month, July is my basketball month,” he said.
When asked what is more exciting, a dunk or scoring a touchdown, London said, “That’s a hard one. Getting a touchdown in football, because it means more in a game. A dunk is not going to win a game. But a touchdown could.”
Both feel good, though.
“They feel amazing,” he said with a smile that helps explain why so many people are rooting for London to succeed.
Yes, there are skeptics about his two-sport strategy, but he insists, “I know who I am and what I’m capable of.
“I feel it’s a good thing. I have options.”
TOP RECEIVERS TO WATCH THIS SEASON
Name; School; Height; Weight; Year; Comment
Gary Bryant; Corona Centennial; 5-9; 160; Jr.; Big-play weapon
Taj Davis; Upland; 6-2; 185; Sr.; Washington commit averaged 23.9 yards a catch
Kyle Ford; Orange Lutheran; 6-3; 195; Sr.; Most feared receiver in SoCal
John Humphreys; Corona del Mar; 6-5; 205; Jr.; Made 55 receptions, scored 16 TDs
Chad Johnson Jr.; Venice; 6-2; 185; Jr.; Ready for breakout season
Darren Jones; Cajon; 6-7; 190; Sr.; Had 102 receptions, 28 touchdowns
Drake London; Moorpark; 6-4; 200; Sr.; USC commit is physical and keeps improving
Bru McCoy; Mater Dei; 6-3; 205; Sr.; Sets the standard for being an All-American
Mycah Pittman; Calabasas; 6-0; 195; Sr.; Oregon commit caught 11 TDs
Johnny Wilson; Calabasas; 6-5; 215; Jr.; Has size, hands, instincts to be a star
Akili Arnold; Mission Viejo; 6-0; 185; Sr.; Top athlete moves to slot receiver
Colby Bowman; St. John Bosco; 6-2; 185; Sr.; Stanford commit has speed, toughness
McKel Broussard; SO Notre Dame; 6-0; 182; Sr.; Slotback will be very involved this season
Lavon Bunkley; Gardena Serra; 6-0; 185; Jr.; Caught three TDs vs. Chaminade
Makai Cope; Venice; 6-1; 185; So.; Rising young prospect in City Section
Bryce Farrell; Oaks Christian; 5-11; 170; Jr.; Stanford commit makes tough catches
Jason Heller; Westlake; 5-8; 180; Sr.; Toughest receiver under 6 feet in Southland
JJ Hernandez; Sierra Canyon; 6-0; 185; Sr.; Ready to have huge season
Kristopher Hutson; St. John Bosco; 5-11; 170; Jr.; USC commit made 33 catches as a sophomore
Josh Jackson; Narbonne; 6-1; 180; Jr.; Could be his team’s most talented player
Steve Jenkins; Narbonne; 6-0; 160; Sr.; Headed for All-City recognition
Jalen Johnson; Eastvale Roosevelt; 6-3; 175; Sr.; Arizona commit
Logan Loya; Orange Lutheran; 5-11; 180; Jr.; Made impact as sophomore
Tarik Luckett; JSerra; 6-2; 175; Sr.; One of the best in Trinity League
Munir McClain; JSerra; 6-4; 205; Sr.; USC commit
Blake Morgan; Capistrano Valley; 6-0; 175; Sr.; Averaged 25 yards a catch last season
Melquan Stovall; Gardena Serra; 5-10; 180; Sr.; Exciting transfer from Paraclete
J.R. Waters; Oxnard; 6-3; 190; Sr.; Oregon commit