Eight-Man Star Has Potential for Big Time : Division I Schools Giving St. Margaret's Masters a Look

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Even guys on the outskirts of high school football can dream.

St. Margaret's quarterback Bobby Masters doesn't play for a powerhouse, not even by eight-man football standards. But his future has possibilities. Some that are on television.

Last weekend, a small-school player took center stage in a big-time college football game. Heisman Trophy-candidate Rashaan Salaam, who leads the NCAA in yards rushing per game, led Colorado into its nationally televised clash with Nebraska Saturday.

Three years ago, Salaam was playing eight-man football at La Jolla Country Day High.

"Although he played eight-man, when I saw Salaam in high school there was no doubt that he was a Division I prospect," said Dick Lascola, who owns the Fallbrook-based Scouting Evaluation Assn.

And now, some Division I recruiters are knocking at Masters' door.

"Earlier in high school, I wasn't even remotely considering playing football in college," said Masters, a 6-foot-3 1/2, 185-pound senior. "I'm just out there to have fun.

"But when I visited Southern Methodist and Baylor, and just thinking that I could have the chance to play there maybe . . . "

Oct. 8, Masters saw SMU play at Baylor during an unofficial visit, and there he met some of the players and coaches.

"I got to go into the locker rooms and watch the game from the field," Masters said. "It was neat to see some of those guys that you see on TV."

Apparently, Baylor and SMU feel Masters could be one of those players.

Masters has modest numbers this season, completing 48% of his passes for 872 yards with nine touchdowns and nine interceptions in seven games. He also has rushed for 419 yards and eight touchdowns.

He doesn't have the eye-popping numbers that Salaam amassed in high school. In Salaam's career, he rushed for more than 4,900 yards, scored 105 touchdowns, averaged 11.5 yards per carry, and led his team to three consecutive section championship games.

But there are other things that recruiters and talent evaluators covet in Masters.

"Bobby is a unique athlete," said Jim Walsh, a sports consultant based in Laguna Hills. "I've seen him play nose guard, linebacker, free safety, cornerback, tailback and quarterback, in one game.

"As a quarterback, I saw him one time where he rolled out to his right, and fired the ball 66 or 68 yards upfield to his left. He's a hard worker who has shown talent, speed, flexibility, and courage, all things that coaches look for."

Capistrano Valley Coach Eric Patton saw those qualities when Masters attended the Cougars' summer football camp.

"I only saw him a few times, but he has potential," Patton said. "Raw would be a good way to describe him. He's big, has a great arm and he throws the deep ball well.

"He would have started if he had transferred to Capo. He's coachable, intelligent and a he's a good kid. I like him."

Transferring to a big high school football program had some appeal to Masters, but he liked his current surroundings too much to leave.

"I wanted to stay at St. Margaret's and graduate with my friends," Masters said. "If fate has it that I'm supposed to play football in college, then I should be able to get a scholarship wherever I'm at."

Masters hopes Walsh will help him find his way.

Walsh was an assistant football coach at Stanford from 1984-'87 and he was a running back with the Seattle Seahawks in 1980.

Now he helps hundreds of athletes, on a one-to-one basis, with strength and conditioning programs. He also advises them about the misconceptions and pitfalls of the recruiting process.

Masters has dominated the playing field at St. Margaret's, where he also starts for the basketball team and plays varsity baseball.

"People who have seen Bobby for the first time come up and tell me, 'Wow, he's a great player,' " St. Margaret's football Coach Brady Lock said. "I guess I've gotten used to having him around all the time. He plays everywhere for us."

In a 41-34 victory over Claremont Webb Oct. 22, Masters completed 14 of 18 passes for 240 yards, rushed for 71 yards, and made 12 tackles.

The next week in a 46-40 loss to Palos Verdes Chadwick, Masters led the team with 17 tackles. He also rushed for 166 yards, filling in for the Tartans' injured starting tailback.

The Tartans (3-4, 1-3), who play their final Prep League game Friday at Arcadia Rio Hondo Prep, aren't mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Even if St. Margaret's wins Friday, they could finish in a three-way tie for third. So Lock isn't holding his breath waiting for a playoff berth.

Masters is doing the same waiting for potential scholarship offers. Patton said if the offers don't come rolling in, Masters could still benefit from playing at the community college level.

"With a lot of hard work, he could really develop," Patton said.

Masters is not the only small-school player in the area being recruited. Lascola said he has received numerous inquiries for game film and information about Judd Granzow of Canoga Park Faith Baptist. Granzow, a 6-3, 190-pound quarterback who was an All-Southern Section selection last season, also is a top-flight baseball player.

Although Patton said some Division I schools would consider it a gamble to spend a scholarship on unpolished talent, he's rooting for Masters.

"He could potentially play at the Division I level," Patton said.

But Walsh is sold on Masters.

"People may not know about Bobby, but he's definitely a diamond in the rough," Walsh said. "One thing that really struck me is his tremendous loyalty.

"It reminded me of when I worked with Junior Seau. Junior could have gone to Vista High, where they had a strong football program, but he lived by Oceanside High and he chose to stay there. He's done pretty well, I'd say, making it to USC and with the San Diego Chargers.

"That type of character is hard to find."

Walsh hopes the right college finds Masters.

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