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Football Jordan

SIGNING DAY: Jordan Sending Pair To Graceland University

The562’s coverage of Jordan Athletics is sponsored by former LBUSD superintendent Chris Steinhauser.

It’s hard going to a new place with new people, but it makes it easier if you have a buddy.

Jake Bautista and Aidan Diaz came to Jordan High from Cerritos last year, and after solid performances in the classroom and on the football field for the Panthers, they’re now going to Graceland University (Iowa) together. Both of them were surrounded by family and friends on Wednesday for a signing day ceremony in the Jordan library.

“When I have six kids getting scholarships that’s saying something about the program,” Jordan coach Jon Nielsen said. “I think it’s fun to change a kids life by giving them an opportunity. It comes down relationships, who coaches trust, and we play in a big boy league. So they got put on the map and produced at a high level.”

Bautista and Diaz agreed that coming to Jordan wasn’t a tough decision.

“Honestly the decision was about where I see myself in the future,” Bautista said. “I could’ve stayed at Cerritos and won a CIF championship or whatever, but what’s after that? How far can I push myself. Obviously coach Jon and the Jordan Panthers were an amazing decision for me.”

“I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life, but after coming over here I felt like I was actually myself and wanted to play further on in my life,” Diaz added.

Diaz came in and will leave as a strong offensive lineman, but Bautista came in as a quarterback and last year was his first as a wide receiver. He finished the season with 49 receptions for 835 yards and nine touchdowns, according to MaxPreps.

“That wasn’t a problem for me,” Bautista said of changing positions. “The big factor as a receiver is just finding open space and I think that was something I was naturally good at.”

Nielsen agreed that Bautista took to the position.

“It was his drive, that kid is a worker,” Nielsen said. “He wanted to do it. If I had 11 of him we wouldn’t loose many games. He’s a throwback player who is gritty.”

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Graceland is an NAIA football program where these Panthers can immediately compete for playing time.

“The kid is solid,” Nielsen said of Diaz. “If he’s 6’1 or 6’2” he’d be a Power 5 offensive guard or center. He’s got a motor, he just goes, and at that NAIA level he’ll be an All-American.”

Bautista and Diaz both think Graceland is the place they can grow the most, even if it is located in rural Lamoni, Iowa.

“It’s cold and rural, it’s definitely going to be a transition from living In a city to an open area but honestly I think that’s a good thing,” Bautista said. “I’m going to be more isolated just focusing on school and football.”

“The coaching staff really connected with me about giving me an opportunity,” Diaz said of Graceland. “I’m nervous to be without my family for a few years. But I’m going to build myself with other players I don’t know.”

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.