Fargas Shines Among All-Stars
Even on the sleepy, tree-lined grounds of the Rancho Capistrano Conference Center and surrounded by some of the best high school football talent in the country, Justin Fargas continues to open eyes.
Participating in two-a-day practices this week with the California team in preparation for today’s 47th annual Shrine All-Star Football Classic, Fargas caught California Coach Ed Burke off-guard Wednesday by exploding through the starting defense.
“We were running [offensive] scout team plays for our defense and we did a couple Justin was familiar with and boom!” Burke said, laughing and shaking his head. “He has that burst that most people don’t have. Being a high school coach I don’t get to see that kind of speed very often.”
Fargas, a recent Notre Dame High graduate and The Times’ Valley player of the year the last two seasons, will put that speed on display today against a Texas all-star team at 5 p.m. at Cerritos College. The game will be televised live by Fox Sports West.
While most of his California teammates made relatively short trips to report to Shrine training camp, Fargas had to return from the University of Michigan. For two weeks he participated in academic orientation exercises and worked out with Wolverine players.
“When I was out there I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to come back for the game,” Fargas said. “I wanted to stay in shape and be around the guys and pick things up even more. But I had to play this last game and try to represent California well. Plus, it’s for charity and it’s a chance to be around some great players.”
Three of California’s brightest stars are at running back, where Fargas is grouped with DeShaun Foster of Tustin and Sultan McCullough of Muir.
Fargas will start and also return kickoffs in tandem with McCullough.
Shrine practices provided Fargas, who rushed for 6,293 yards and 76 touchdowns in his high school career, with a taste of what he’ll face in college.
“Sometimes when I was in the backfield during a [Notre Dame] game or practice, I could look at a linebacker and say, ‘Yeah, I can run him over,’ ” Fargas said. “There was always a weakness. Now, I look around and there’s no weak side to run to. Everybody’s good and it’s very competitive out here.”
The competition will be considerably fiercer at Michigan, where Fargas will try to crack the lineup of the national champion.
Never known for a lack of confidence, his recent workouts with the Wolverines left Fargas slightly concerned about keeping up.
“The intensity of the workouts and the running was at a whole different level,” Fargas said. “I felt I did pretty good in seven-on-seven [scrimmages]. I’m picking up on a lot of the offense and I felt I fit in good football-wise but in strength and conditioning I have to step it up another level.”
Michigan’s freshman class has been rated the nation’s best by numerous recruiting publications. Fargas and his classmates pose a threat to the starting jobs of Michigan’s upperclassmen but he said he has been treated well by the older players.
In the informal workouts, organized and conducted by the team’s captains, senior running back Clarence Williams took Fargas under his wing.
"[Williams] would stand in the huddle with me and help me with a lot of things,” Fargas said. “At the beginning he was right there to tell me where to go and what to do on every play.”
News of Fargas’ high school exploits obviously preceded his arrival in Ann Arbor, for he was the target of good-natured trash-talk from the defensive players he will face when practice begins Aug. 10.
“They kept telling [the freshmen] we should be better if we really were the No. 1 [recruiting class] and they said my track speed wasn’t going to help me any,” Fargas said with a smile. “The defensive guys were always talking in my ear, trying to get in my head, but that’s part of the whole college experience.”
Burke is confident Fargas will have an impact on the Big Ten Conference.
“The thing I like most about Justin is despite all the accolades he doesn’t give off an attitude out here,” Burke said. “It’s been great working with him and it’s obvious that he’s a very special player.”