ANAHEIM, Calif. – When people think about Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure this fall most people will automatically turn their sights toward star running back Darrell Scott.
But if you pay attention to the other side of the ball, you'll quickly discover there's a talented linebacker that's starting to shoot up the charts with the college coaches. His name is Ryan Panapa, and he's a 6-foot-1 ½, 258-pound tackling machine.
As a junior, Panapa had 122 solo tackles, an interception he returned for a touchdown and three forced fumbles. Those numbers were good enough for him to earn defensive player of the year honors in his league. It's also good enough to have colleges from all over the nation to take an early look at him.
"People mainly talk about how I have a nose for the ball," he said. "I just like playing the position. I like to hit a lot. I think I project at the middle most likely. I've been a middle my whole life, so I like being in the middle. I've been playing football since third grade, so this will be my ninth year coming up."
Panapa, who was at the Rivals.com Junior Day this past Saturday at Anaheim Servite, said he's learned a lot from playing football for one of the top programs in Southern California.
"Mainly our linebacker coach has taught me a lot," he said. "They've taught me a lot at the position and made me a lot tougher. I've worked hard at improving my speed, strength and things like that. It's actually helped me a lot playing at a school like St. Bonaventure. The experience, time wise, at the practices have been big for me. The certain drills we do helps a ton. It's just a certain mindset, too. This program has helped me out a lot.
Panapa has already picked up his first scholarship offer but is expecting more to come about soon.
"I got offered my Ole Miss, and that's the biggest school that's showed me interest early on," he said. "It's awkward to have that offer. It feels weird to have that offer and know you have at least an opportunity, but I also don't know too much about Mississippi either. So that's kind of unusual for me.
"My ears are open. I just want to stay close, that's about it."
He also lists Cal, UCLA, USC and Florida State as teams sending him regular correspondence.