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Oak Grove senior running and linebacker Elias Herrera always wanted to play at the next level – a focus he’s really placed an emphasis on during this offseason.
What this offseason presented was something more unique than most. While many other states already concluded their high school football seasons, California athletes – like Herrera – were left in a bind. They couldn’t get the game film out. They couldn’t play games.
But Herrera kept plugging away, kept churning out the work every day, and all of it recently paid off with his first collegiate football offer from Iowa Wesleyan.
“I just got my first offer last week, which is a blessing, so I’m just seeing where else would offer me and just seeing what I can do for the next level,” Herrera said.
In that call, it was the culmination of all of Herrera’s hard work and dedication paying off.
Talking with Iowa Wesleyan safeties coach Raul Lozano, a Northern California product from Sacramento, Herrera got the news he always waited for.
“It was a short talk just to tell me he loved my film and everything, and he gave me the news right there,” Herrera said. “I was beyond thrilled, just relieved honestly just to get that news.”
However, some of the earlier moments during the pandemic made it difficult for some of these dreams look like possibilities.
Throughout high school, Herrera has found ways to contribute in key ways for an Oak Grove program steeped in success – one that recently was the Central Coast Section Division II runner-up to Los Gatos when Herrera was a junior.
Herrera was a menace defensively for the Eagles, registering 60-plus tackles, eight tackles for loss, four caused fumbles and two interceptions. He also ran for more than 150 yards.
Once travel football was created in California for the Winner Circle Athletics Champions League, Herrera jumped at the chance, and he’s shined for Xclusive Speed through its first five games ahead of its postseason contest versus Iron Sharpens Iron at 7:15 p.m. Saturday in Southern California.
“Honestly, it helped me so much,” Herrera said. “Playing on Xclusive Speed, I’ve gotten so much exposure. When COVID hit, I was kind of devastated because I wasn’t sure if I was going to have a season and if I was going to get the film I wanted to to be able to give to these coaches, but when I started playing I started talking to way more coaches, got that exposure that I needed to and just played.”
He’s certainly made the most of the opportunity at hand.
In week No. 2, Herrera ran for 44 yards on four carries. In week No. 4, he was the West Coast Preps Athlete of the Week, rushing for 49 yards on two carries – including the game-tying 52-yard touchdown run – in addition to his 17 receiving yards on two catches. And in the regular season finale, he had 33 yards on three carries and a 10-yard reception.
“My work ethic and dedication I would say,” Herrera said. “I’ve always been that kid just to be a leader on and off the field, and just to keep grinding every day because I know that I may not be the biggest, I may not be the strongest, but I will outwork you on the field. That’s a fact.”
And Herrera credits a bunch of his success to those who helped him along the way.
There’s Brandon Younger with GrindMode Elite Sports, who Herrera credits much of his leadership qualities to. There’s Marcus Malu with Malu Fitness, who he started to go see in June and worked out there twice a week, where he saw improvements in his strength and conditioning.
Along with that, there’s his family and successful high school coaches at Oak Grove.
“Family wise I would say my mom and dad,” Herrera said. “They’ve helped me with so much. I’m beyond thankful to have them. As coaches wise, there’s so much. I mentioned coach Younger, coach Marcus Malu. I even have some of my high school coaches, coach Marcus Reese, coach JJ Dominguez, who really helped me shine beyond the rest.”
If a high school season does officially commence, Herrera is aiming for even greener pastures for Oak Grove.
“Coming up short last year in the CCS Division championship, this year I would want to take it all,” Herrera said. “I want that ring on my finger. I want to be able to go to state and win state, go farther than any team at Oak Grove has ever gone.”
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