Not since Alden Darby was at Millikan in a starring role in 2008 and 2009 has Long Beach’s biggest football star been a Ram–but wide receiver Ezavier Staples is hoping to wear that mantle in 2020.
The 6-foot-2 senior-to-be had more than a dozen scholarship offers to choose from, including most of the Pac-12, and opted to commit to UCLA last week, ending speculation about where he’d continue his football career.
“Really it was the education part of it,” he said. “Having that name out of all the colleges is so important–it’s easier to get jobs, because people really value that degree.”
Staples has family members that attended UCLA as well as his girlfriend’s mom, and said seeing them in professional environments helped make the decision easy.
“I’ve always seen role models in good career to look up to, so I see that as something UCLA has going for it,” he said.
The Rams went 3-7 overall and 2-4 last year, but with Staples leading a talented group of returners, he’s hoping his team will be in a title hunt this year.
“I think last year was about building with a new coach and this year will be the year it comes together,” he said. “The goal is to get into the playoffs and make some noise.”
There’s a big question as to when the football season will take place, if it will take place at all, and how many games will be played. The Moore League and the CIF Southern Section office are exploring a variety of options, including a full season, an abbreviated season, or a delayed season. Staples said that he wants as many athletes in the city as possible pulling in scholarship options, so he’s hoping whatever option gets picked, it’s the one with the most games.
“The more film the better,” he said. “I’d rather wait till January if it means getting the most games we can–that’ll give us more time to work on out craft, too. I just really hope to have a senior season, I wouldn’t want to miss that for anything.”
Staples said he and his teammates have video meetings most days, going over plays and routes to try and make sure they’re staying up on the mental side of the game. They’re also doing workouts over video, and some of the players have been meeting at parks to work on timing and chemistry in the passing game.
“It’s been difficult, because everything just stopped so suddenly,” said Staples, who was in the midst of a promising track season for the Rams when school shut down. “I was hoping to have a good track season and have that lead me into a good football season. I’m just working out, trying to stay focused, getting prepared for college more so than high school honestly.”
Like most student-athletes, Staples also acknowledged that schoolwork was harder at home than it was in the classroom, with all the distractions of being in his own house.
“The video games are just right there staring at you,” he said with a laugh.
He’s continuing to stay true to his work ethic, though, and said that’s one of the reasons he’s looking forward to the upcoming season, whenever it starts.
“There’s going to be separation this year,” he said. “You’ll see who was staying at home chilling and who’s really been putting the work in.”