By JOE FERRARO
Mikey Rabara had never heard of Butte College before he received the email.
But as the Konawaena senior read an overview of the California junior college’s football team, his eyes grew wide when he saw the names of the school’s former alumni.
Aaron Rodgers. Alex Green. Larry Allen.
Then Rabara saw the Roadrunners’ history of consistently appearing in bowl games.
He was sold.
“That’s the mindset I have — a championship mindset,” he said.
With that in mind, Rabara signed a letter of commitment to attend Butte on Feb. 13, and he plans on competing for playing time in the secondary once he arrives in Oroville, Calif., in August.
“Being able to play is an honor and a privilege,” said Rabara, the leading tackler on a Konawaena football team that won its second consecutive Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II title last fall. “Making this dream come true, words can’t describe how happy I am.”
Wildcats secondary coach Rusty Saole made it all happen, sending film of Rabara to Butte linebackers coach Jeff Lopeteguy, who also serves as the team’s recruiting coordinator. Lopeteguy then sent an email to Rabara that highlighted the team’s success in getting players to Division I and Division II universities — something the Konawaena senior would like to do — and history of playing in season-ending bowl games.
Rodgers, who won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers in 2011, attended Butte in 2002 before starting a stellar two-year career at the University of California. Another current Packer, Green, led Butte to a junior college national championship in 2008 before spending two seasons at the University of Hawaii.
Allen attended Butte from 1989-90, and he later made 11 Pro Bowls during a 14-year NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers.
Rodgers, Green and Allen are three of 29 former Butte players Lopeteguy listed as making an NFL roster in his email to Rabara. The linebackers coach also listed 25 players from the Roadrunners’ 2011 roster who landed at four-year universities.
Jeff Jordan, who will enter his 16th season as the Roadrunners’ head coach, told Rabara he’d have a chance to play strong safety in the team’s 4-2-5 defense.
Rabara played outside linebacker at Konawaena last fall, accumulating 156 tackles, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and three sacks. He has no issues with playing a different position, saying “wherever the coach tells me to play, that’s where I’ll play.”
“I’m a downhill player, and I can hit,” Rabara said. “That’s what they like.”
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Rabara said he will focus on improving his pass coverage skills before he attends his first practice at Butte, a California Community College Athletic Association school located about 80 miles north of Sacramento.
Rabara had received interest from Division III schools such as Pacific University (Forest Grove, Ore.), the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Castleton State College (Castleton, Vt.) but none made scholarship offers.
Rabara will join a Roadrunners team coming off a second consecutive 10-1 season that ended with a 31-17 win over Fresno City in the State Center Bowl.
“(Jordan) told me to go up there are compete,” Rabara said. “They win championships. That championship mindset is already in my brain. Being a leader, I know how it feels to win.”
Konawaena coach Cliff Walters said Rabara has the potential to play linebacker in college if he bulks up enough.
“This could very well be the next Manti Te’o,” Walters said, referring to Notre Dame’s star linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist. “He has that kind of determination, that kind of speed, and he loves contact.”