Football: A defensive lineman from Cameroon?
Among the more than 300 high school football players who showed up Sunday at USC for the invitation-only Nike Camp, the most intriguing for me was 6-foot-7, 260-pound senior-to-be Stephan Nembot from Van Nuys Montclair Prep.
He's a native of Cameroon who played football for the first time last season. Basketball was supposed to be his sport. But he's a brilliant student, has come to enjoy football and if the college recruiters don't start coming around, it would be shocking because his physical stature is ideal for the sport.
"I think it's a great sport," said Nembot, who speaks fluent French and good English. "You have to be powerful. We don't have football in Africa."
There were big bodies and big names galore on the field. De'Anthony Thomas from Crenshaw made an appearance. The big-time recruits such as defensive linemen Jason Gibson from Gardena Serra and Charles Burks from Huntington Beach Edison were doing their thing.
Burks looks smaller than some running backs, but his agility, upper body strength and quickness explains why he had 14 sacks last season.
Among the quarterbacks participating was a surprise. Rio Ruiz, the sophomore baseball standout from La Puente Bishop Amat, decided to see how he matched up at quarterback. Let me say I would want Ruiz on my team in ping-pong, horseshoes or anything else.
Conner Preston from Serra, Jerry Neuheisel from Los Angeles Loyola and Michael Eubank from Corona Centennial were among the participants in a wide-open quarterback competition. There is no Matt Barkley for 2010, and I'm waiting to see if someone emerges as a clear-cut No. 1 in Southern California.
As for best athletes, I like Tre Madden from Mission Viejo, who plays linebacker, quarterback, receiver and anything Coach Bob Johnson can think of. There were lots of Mission Viejo players participating, and all looked in football shape.
I'll wait for the Internet gurus to let us know who were the camp standouts, but for my couple of hours spent there, finding a promising 6-7 player from Cameroon means it was a good day.
-- Eric Sondheimer
Photo: Stephan Nembot stretches along with the other Nike Camp participants at USC on Sunday. Credit: Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times