After his national signing day ceremony with fellow Rancho Mirage football teammates, Jonny Avila’s time with the Azusa Pacific University football team, a Division II program, was short-lived. Shortly after officially committing to play football for the Cougars, and after what he called a difficult decision, Avila had a change of heart.
Instead, he’s now in the process of filing the paperwork to transfer to play at Division III Redlands next fall.
At the time, one of the valley’s top offensive linemen said on national signing day that he was excited to get to learn from the Cougars’ offensive line coach, NFL Hall of Famer Jackie Slater, who played 20 seasons with the Rams that include 18 playoff games.
Although Avila didn’t go into many specifics about the change in his college football path, he said he is excited for that next journey to begin. In his high school coach’s eyes, the Bulldogs are getting a steal. After the signing day ceremony where fellow Rattler kicker Daniel Whelan also committed to Division I-AA UC Davis, Rancho Mirage coach L.D. Matthews said he felt like both schools were getting “steals” in these talents he feels have Division I potential.
But with some hard work and a solid year or two of work at a Division III three school, Avila, with his 6-feet-3.5-inch and 321 pound frame could have a serious shot to attract attention at higher levels in the college football world. As history has shown for athletes coming out of the valley, sometimes it takes getting to college before they truly get their shot.
“It’s just the Coachella Valley is such a small area, and it’s pretty hard for kids to earn scholarships and earn the recognition they deserve,” Matthews said on national signing day.