Tough. Fearless. Fast.
Those are the qualities running back Jesse Valenzuela of Camarillo displays on a weekly basis.
College recruiters haven’t noticed yet, but something tells me he’ll be having the last laugh.
“I’m telling you this,” he said. “If anybody takes a chance, they’re not going to miss out. My work ethic and mentality on and off the field … I like being a dog all the time, from making my bed in the morning to the classroom.”
Last week, he had touchdown runs of nine, 94 and 97 yards against Santa Barbara Bishop Diego. He has helped Camarillo to a 7-0 record by rarely leaving the field. He also plays cornerback and is on the punt return and kickoff return teams.
“There’s not an ounce of body fat on that guy,” coach Jack Willard said. “He’s as tough as there is. He’s the kind of runner when things break down he makes the offensive line look good. And when the offensive line is doing well, he can profit from that. He just makes plays. He’s very fast and elusive and fearless. If he were 215-pound guy, coaches would be crawling all over this place.”
Everything changed for Valenzuela when he was a 5-foot-8, 135-pound sophomore. He was 15 years old and facing Westlake Village Oaks Christian and defensive end Kavon Thibodeaux, who is now at Oregon.
“That was pretty cool,” he said. “Kavon chased me down one play. Knowing I could play with dudes that caliber and at that level gave me a sense I could play.”
The realization that he might be good enough to play college football got Valenzuela to start focusing in the classroom. He said he was a D student and reversed his ambivalence after his sophomore season. He said he has become an NCAA qualifier and scored 1110 on the SAT.
He has grown to 5-10 and 170 pounds and only turned 17 last month. He has no doubt he’s got a couple more inches to grow in him and will become even stronger and faster.
“I’m still young and just getting started,” he said. “I can’t wait to shock the world to see how big I am and how fast I am. I’m always proving somebody wrong, That’s what keeps me going.”
He has been playing tackle football since he was 6 and usually facing kids older than him. Maybe that’s why there are few situations that intimidate him. His football instincts combined with his toughness can be seen repeatedly as he makes plays in games. He finds ways to be a positive influence and keeps contributing whether getting hit or inflicting hits.
“I feel I’m in best shape of my life,” he said.
He rises at 5:30 a.m. three times a week to work out with an older brother. That dedication started after Camarillo’s 49-17 loss to Corona del Mar in the Southern Section Division 4 playoff semifinals last season.
This season, he has rushed for 927 yards while scoring 15 touchdowns and averaging 11.2 yards per carry. He also has 20 receptions for 210 yards and two touchdowns.
Camarillo is headed toward a showdown with unbeaten Simi Valley Grace Brethren on Nov. 1 at Moorpark College to decide the Camino League championship. The Scorpions are one of several neighborhood teams loaded with seniors trying to take advantage of that rare opportunity to win championships. The others include Corona del Mar (7-0), Santa Ana Foothill (7-0), Chino Hills Ayala (7-0), Culver City (7-0), Phelan Serrano (7-0), Crescenta Valley (7-0), El Monte (7-0) and Alhambra (7-0).
Valenzuela has no intention of worrying what’s going to happen in the future. He knows someone will need a tough, versatile running back, and he intends to be that player.
“I’m waiting until my time comes,” he said. “I can only control what I can control.”