Chris Draft was 10 when Valencia High retired the football jersey of Ray Pallares, Orange County’s career rushing leader.
“No. 40,” Draft remembers. “It’s there in the gym’s trophy case. I see it all the time.
“My No. 34 is going right next to it. Then I’ll move on to college feeling good.”
Draft, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior, already has plenty to feel good about. He has two Southern Section championship rings, and the nation’s top college programs are pursuing him as a running back, linebacker and defensive back.
And as modest as he may seem, he’s making some big-time plans for his senior year.
Why not? He has already helped the Tigers win consecutive Division VI and Orange League titles. He shared Division VI player of the year honors with Duarte quarterback Greg Ainsworth and was a Times’ all-county first-team linebacker.
“I want another Orange League title and another CIF title,” he said. “Then I’ll make them retire my jersey. I’ll make them take my blue one, the one with all the scratches and stitches on it. It will go in the trophy case, right next to Pallares.’ ”
The way Draft has played the past two seasons, there might not be much left of the jersey.
Valencia is 25-3 with Draft starting the past two seasons.
He started at outside linebacker as a sophomore on the Tigers’ 14-0 championship team. Last year, he started on both offense and defense, leading the team in tackles and rushing for 1,600 yards and scoring 23 of Valencia’s 49 touchdowns. After a 1-2 start, the Tigers won their second section championship.
Another section title this year, and Draft figures they’ll start naming stadiums after him.
“I always put myself two steps ahead of everyone else,” he said. “I’m going for all-state and All-American this year. And what’s the name of that award? The Glenn Davis Award? I’m going to try to win that, too.”
With barely more than 1,700 career rushing yards, Draft won’t challenge Pallares’ county career record (5,396 yards from 1983-86).
But he plans to stamp his name on just about every other record, title, award or championship he can think of.
"(Valencia’s) Ryan Roskelly’s five touchdowns in a game,” Draft said, noting one of the records he wants to break.
Don’t get caught up in Draft’s talk of individual glory. He says it’s all part of his master plan, motivating his teammates and himself.
“This year, I want all three--all-county, All-CIF and Orange League MVP,” he said. “I got dogged last year on that (Orange League MVP). They (coaches) gave it to (Anaheim’s) Brian Diaz and I got back of the year. They didn’t even recognize me as a defensive player.”
Bitter words, but motivational nonetheless. Draft has always motivated himself that way, as well as setting goals he believes are within his reach.
“I’d like to rush for 2,500 yards this season,” he said. “That would be cool.”
That also would leave Draft 96 yards short of the county’s single-season rushing record set last season by Rancho Alamitos’ Jeff Byrd. Nothing like setting high standards.
Valencia might not retire Draft’s jersey after the season. But one thing is certain: Draft will be far from retiring himself. He’s one of the county’s most sought-after players, along with Huntington Beach tight end Tony Gonzalez.
Nearly every recruiting service ranks Draft among the top linebackers on the West Coast. USC and Stanford want him as a running back. Colorado and UCLA are interested in him as a linebacker or defensive back.
Draft is content on making them wait until signing day.
“I want to wait and take my recruiting trips after the season,” he said. “I’m concentrating on the season right now.”