SENIOR JEFF CAMILLI, Ponderosa's tackling leader, will have his pick from a number of four-year programs currently recruiting the Bruin standout. Democrat photo by Pat Dollins
SHINGLE SPRINGS — Playing football runs in Jeff Camilli’s family. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Ponderosa senior linebacker has two great uncles who played at Utah State and two other uncles that played at four-year colleges.
Today, 10 four-year colleges are expressing interest in Camilli, a two-way starter at inside linebacker and tight end. Known in the Sacramento region as a ferocious, hard-hitting linebacker, Camilli has left his fare share of running backs longing for the sideline.
“Every year college coaches come through our campus looking for guys,” said Ponderosa football head coach Jason Tenner. “Because of Jeff, we’ve seen a little more and some of the more high-profile schools have stopped in. I think he’s enjoying the attention, but at the same time it can be a little overwhelming.
“He’s doing a good job of handling it, and I think he’ll make the right choice as to where to spend the next phase of his life.”
Fresno State, San Jose State, Colorado State and the University of Nevada, Reno have already offered Camilli, a two-sport athlete (wrestling), full-ride scholarships but he’s not made a decision. Washington State, according to Tenner, has also stepped into the recruiting picture and the Fresno State scouts were at the Bruins’ game against Rio Linda last Friday.
“I plan on taking all five of my official visits,” Camilli said.
Camilli leads the team with 49 tackles, including 32 solo. On offense, Camilli has scored four touchdowns and has two receptions for 37 yards. Last season, Camilli had 126 tackles and as a sophomore registered 91.
“He is the emotional leader of our team,” said Tenner of Camilli. “Competitive doesn’t begin to describe him. He is physical and sets the tone for our team. Having him is a luxury; he’s like having a coach on the field. Everyone respects him and listens when he talks.”
Camilli is one reason the Bruins are off to a 4-1 record, their best start in two seasons as they begin Delta River League action Saturday at Jesuit with hopes of qualifying for the section playoffs, a position Ponderosa hasn’t seen since 2007.
Camilli and his teammates know that winning two or more games in the Delta River League, a division that includes Oak Ridge, is a tall order.
“Everyone knows our league is filled with amazing teams and talent,” Camilli said. “They (Jesuit) seem to be a big, tough physical team with a really talented quarterback (Thomas Sperbeck), a lot like us this year. Oak Ridge is definitely going to be a tough game considering they’re having a great season. That is the game I’m most looking forward to.”
This year’s team is different from the last two teams that both went 2-8 and Camilli credits that to work ethic.
“We worked hard the whole summer trying to be perfect and it’s paying off,” Camilli said.
Camilli loves playing inside linebacker, looking to see if the opponent’s offense gives a hint as to where the ball is going to run, or if the quarterback changes the play at the line of scrimmage.
“It is awesome,” Camilli said. “I’m always looking at the formations and seeing if you know what’s about to happen. It’s a big responsibility but I love it.”
Tenner added, “I knew right away he was special. I had a big grin on my face because I knew he would be a rock for us for years. He’s a great young man and I feel honored to have had the opportunity to coach him for three years. Athletes like him don’t grow on trees and whatever school lands him in the recruiting process will be lucky to have him. Great kid and a good student.”
Camilli has taken weight lifting seriously in the last three years. Today, he can bench press 280 pounds five times and squat 375 pounds five times.
“Five days a week,” said Camilli of his workout regiment.
Camilli started playing football in sixth grade in the Ponderosa Jr. Bruins’ youth football program and has many people to thank for his love and passion for football.
“All of my family has been very supportive, all of my coaches and friends,” Camilli said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
While picking a college is still to be decided, Camilli has dreamt of playing in the NFL for his favorite team, the Baltimore Ravens.
“I love them,” Camilli said. “Their defense is just the stereotypical hard-nosed defense you want.”
Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or [email protected] Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter.
PONDEROSA BRUINS #42, Jeff Camilli . Democrat photo by Pat Dollins