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Effort guides Santorineos into academic, athletic success

Mihalis Santorineos holds six college offers. Chris Jackson / Staff Photo
Mihalis Santorineos holds six college offers. Chris Jackson / Staff Photo

Rancho Cotate senior linebacker Mihalis Santorineos always prepares to the best of his abilities.

There were times he doubted if a football season would unfold. As the season kept getting pushed back, it was easy for those thoughts for many to let that doubt creep in and understand that the odds of a season are diminishing.

But Santorineos kept plugging away. Whether a schedule would actually commence, he was training like either one would or just getting ready for the next chapter in his football journey.

Well, his work eventually paid off, as California announced for the return of high school football, slated to begin this month.

“My next step could have been going straight to college without even getting another high school season, so I was just training for whatever that next step was,” Santorineos said. “And if we were going to have a season I wanted to be prepared. I wanted to be used a ton. I was just training for whatever next step was there.”

That effort is something Santorineos prides himself on, always going the extra mile to ensure his success.

Santorineos wants to be the first to the ball, and it shows in his preparation. Some nights on the weeks before games he studied film until 2 a.m. so he could notice the small details of his game.

All of that work was evident in a banner junior year at Rancho Cotate, accumulating 237 tackles, four sacks, six fumble recoveries, six blocked PATs and two forced fumbles while Rancho Cotate won North Coast Section and Northern California crowns.

“I really felt like to me I was always like a bigger kid,” Santorineos said. “I was never really this fast kid who would just run all over the field, so I really had to play smart. And I felt like through all the film I watched and all the practice and just my effort of wanting it more, wanting it helped me really get there.”

Where Santorineos is garnering even more success is in the classroom, as he holds a 4.6 GPA.

“My parents really emphasize it, and I think that’s kind of what started my success in the classroom,” Santorineos said. “But I also kind of approach it like I do football where like with every assignment and every test I just really just try to do my best. I treat it like a football game. Studying for a test is like watching film before a game, so I think just the little things and all the late nights, staying up after practice and doing your homework and making sure you’re on top of everything is a big part of it.”

And, on top of the effort and size Santorineos possesses, he said speed became a great emphasis during this offseason.

Satorineos worked on straight line and lateral speed, along with enhancing his explosiveness to shed more blocks and make more tackles. 

“Just when I was able to lift weights and when I was lifting weights in my garage, with everything going on that was just another big part of it is just a lot of either body weight movements or weight training movements, just to get my explosiveness and strength up,” Santorineos said. “I think I’ve definitely changed in speed though just because I put a lot of emphasis in it.”

Currently, six schools have offered Santorineos – Colby, Pacific, Pacific Lutheran, Puget Sound, Rose-Hulman and Whittier. 

With the season looming now in California, Santorineos hopes to gain more film and add to his recruitment. He also said he’s taking it day by day and doesn’t have a commitment date set.

All he’s looking for is a school and football program with a heavy emphasis on academics where he can build lasting relationships with coaches and staff members. 

Very big on academics and just help me get that degree to set me up for the rest of my life, but also just have a great connection with the coaching, the coaching staff and just a good atmosphere that is just going to help me grow as a student-athlete and just making me the best athlete I want to be, be able to succeed on the field and have a great connection and a great time.”

Going into his senior year, Santorineos originally hoped to avenge last season’s state championship defeat.

But, with state championships canceled, Rancho Cotate and its senior class will not get that opportunity this spring. So all they can focus on is putting their all into every game they have the chance to play.

“We don’t know if there’s going to be a championship or we’re just going to play games, but whatever it is I just hope my goal for my team is to do the best we can every game,” Santorineos said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time. It would be really great to see the team come together after so long and after everything that’s happened. 

“And then personally I just want to keep being a leader on the field and just really show what I can do as an athlete and a linebacker and just show how I’ve improved over this crazy time in the past year and really showcase my talents.”

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