Santa Rosa Junior College football players parlaying success with Bear Cubs into university careers

Head coach Lenny Wagner’s defense was stacked with individual talent along the front seven, and five of SRJC’s defensive starters have signed National Letters of Intent to continue their football careers at the four-year level.|

The Santa Rosa Junior College football program has a decorated history of developing athletes who move on to continue their careers at the four-year level.

This year’s Bear Cubs squad is no exception.

SRJC wrapped up a 4-6 campaign last fall that included a 2-3 finish in California Community College Athletic Association NorCal Conference play. The Bear Cubs boasted one of the stingiest defenses in the conference and yielded just 189 points in 10 games.

Head coach Lenny Wagner’s defense was stacked with individual talent along the front seven, and five of SRJC’s defensive starters have signed National Letters of Intent to continue their football careers at the four-year level.

Here’s a rundown of which Bear Cubs have signed to continue their football careers, with some insight from Wagner on what they brought to SRJC during their respective careers.

DE Jack Brutus, Shepherd University (West Virginia)

Sophomore defensive end Jack Brutus led the Bears Cubs with 7½ sacks and 8½ tackles for loss last season during a stellar final campaign with the program. His 31 tackles were the seventh-most on the team.

Wagner described Brutus as a player who is in the midst of a “comeback story.” He underwent surgeries on both shoulders and resumed his football career last fall after a two-year break to recover from his injuries. Wagner praised Brutus’s tenacity and infectious personality.

“Man, he was something else,” Wagner said. “He was really, really good. ... He’s one of those guys who you’re glad they’re on your team and not somebody else’s.”

LB Dimitri Johnson, University of New Mexico

Sophomore linebacker Dimitri Johnson racked up 62 tackles, six tackles for loss, 3½ sacks and hauled in two interceptions for SRJC last season.

After receiving little-to-no recruiting buzz as a high school prospect, he went on to become the heart and soul of the Bear Cubs’ defense at inside linebacker this past season and has now joined New Mexico for spring ball.

“He didn’t have anybody really recruiting him out of high school but came in and was our defensive signal-caller two years in a row,” Wagner said. “Played all three linebacker positions for us; provided great leadership both years. He was first-team all-conference, first-team all-state, first-team All-American.

“Just phenomenal for us.”

DT Josh Kauvesi, Robert Morris University (Pennsylvania)

Sophomore defensive tackle Josh Kauvesi racked up 18 tackles and two sacks for the Bear Cubs last season while serving as a constant, physical presence along the defensive interior.

According to Wagner, the stat sheet hardly tells the story of what Kauvesi meant to SRJC over the past two seasons.

“He’s a true nose guard — was the strongest guy on our team,” Wagner said. “Very mature kid, very disciplined kid. He went on a Mormon mission out of high school and came back and played for us. He really brought some maturity and stability to our defense and our team. ... He’s going to do a great job out there.”

DE Shane Reilly, Midland University (Nebraska)

Sophomore defensive end Shane Reilly began his college athletics career with ambitions of playing for SRJC’s basketball team.

When that plan didn’t pan out, though, the 6-foot-5 Santa Cruz native showed up in Wagner’s office one afternoon and expressed a desire to join the school’s football team. Although he had never played a competitive snap of football prior to that day, Reilly quickly developed into a difference-maker for the Bear Cubs and tallied 16 tackles and 1½ sacks last season.

“At first, we weren’t sure what to do with him. We thought maybe he was going to be a tight end,” Wager said. “He just kind of found his niche at the d-line. He had a big learning curve the first year. But in year two, he really became a guy that we relied on.”

LB Dillon Tingle, Clarion University (Pennsylvania)

Sophomore Dillon Tingle was SRJC’s leading tackler by a substantial margin last season. He racked up 80 tackles — including 45 solo stops — along with nine tackles for loss, four sacks and three forced fumbles.

The all-conference inside linebacker will leave some big shoes to fill in the middle of the SRJC defense. According to Wagner, Tingle won the team’s “tough man” award this season.

“Dillon is the definition of an overachiever,” Wagner said. “From Middletown High School, playing all Lake County schools during his high school career, he just blossomed into another really good two-year starter for us. He played right next to (Dimitri Johnson) and was really, really solid. He stepped up to the next level of competition better than most who come from small schools.”

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.