Awunganyi And Garcia Have A Day To Remember

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(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)
By Rick Assad
Sports Editor

 

UMe Schools

It’s unlikely that Burroughs High’s Robert Awunganyi or Branden Garcia will ever forget the day they signed their letter of intent to play college football.

This Wednesday on campus, Awunganyi signed with Colorado State while Garcia inked his name to play for Tabor College.

Tabor is a member of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) and is a four-year private Christian liberal arts school in Hillsboro, Kansas.

Awunganyi, a wide receiver and free safety, was a threat to find the end zone from anywhere on the field, while Garcia, a middle linebacker, led the Indians in tackles the last two seasons, and was a fierce competitor who wasn’t afraid to get on players who were slacking.

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(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)
Robert Awunganyi (left), Keith Knoop and Branden Garcia (right) on their signing day. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

What was it like on signing day? “It was fun,” Awunganyi said. “I went to bed at 9 p.m. and woke up only once, but then I went back to sleep.”

Awunganyi went on: “I got to school at 7 a.m. and I signed at 2:15 p.m. in the quad. It’s a new chapter in my life.”

Indeed it will be for the transfer from Riverside Arlington, who played only one season at Burroughs, but whose impact was felt from the day he arrived on campus.

“The first day we saw him, we knew that he had all the tools to play football at a high level,” said longtime Burroughs coach Keith Knoop, who recently retired of the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Awunganyi. “The only question was, how long would it take for him to learn the offense and defense. But he picked it up fast.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)
Awunganyi, who will attend Colorado State and Garcia, who will attend Tabor College, show their letter of intent. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Awunganyi, who has a 3.6 grade-point average, had scholarship offers from Illinois, Kansas, University of Texas El Paso, San Diego State, San Jose State, Wyoming, Idaho, UC Davis, Hawaii, Fresno State and Stony Brook in New York.

Garcia, at 5-8 and 200 pounds, was highly decorated and was recognized for his play as he was named second team All-Pacific League and All-Area.

A leader and captain, Garcia led the defense in tackles the last two seasons and posted 78 total tackles this season, including 12 solo.

“Branden was part of that great senior class and was a leader on the junior varsity team as a sophomore,” Knoop said. “He called the plays on defense and made sure that everybody was lined up properly. He’s a great young man.”

How did Colorado State stand out in Awunganyi’s mind? “It’s mostly the coaches and how they interacted with the players and how they treated me when I had my recruiting trip,” he said. “The coaches made it real easy for me.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)
Back-to-back leaders. Garcia was a defensive stalwart while Awunganyi could do everything. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Mike Bobo is the Head Coach and the Rams finished 7-6 this season including a 28-23 bowl loss to the University of Nevada.

Awunganyi’s and Garcia’s play helped the Indians finish 10-2 overall and 7-0 in league action, while reaching the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division quarterfinals.

Because there was so much talent on this year’s squad, Awunganyi, who has been timed at 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash, his numbers are impressive but not eye-popping.

Awunganyi caught 15 passes for 239 yards with two touchdowns and carried the ball four times for one score.

But it was when he had his hands on punts and kickoffs that Awunganyi really shined.

On 14 kickoff returns, Awungani accounted for 454 yards and two touchdowns and on 14 punt returns, he had 272 yards and one score.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)
Garcia and Awunganyi display their college caps on signing day. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Was there one thing that stood out during Awunganyi’s football season?

“The thing I’m probably going to remember the most was playing with a new team. They were all great and so were the coaches. That team played hard.”

Did one game stand out? “That would be the Burbank game,” Awunganyi said. “I’ll cherish that memory for a long time.” The Indians prevailed over their city rivals 47-21.

No doubt it’s going to take special and unique players to replace Awunganyi and Garcia.

MT

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