Chico, California – Chico Hai’s Sam Rufino will face his dream of playing college football at American International College, a Division II program in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Rafino signed his letter in front of coaches, friends and teammates.
“This is all I have worked on so far,” the senior said. “For the past four years I have dedicated myself to taking it to the next level and playing college football. It’s a blessing.”
Rufino played as an offensive and defensive lineman at the University of Chico Hai. He won all categories First Team honors and was selected as Defensive MVP last season. Skill is only one part of his game of sticking with the Yellowjacket coaches.
“They like the way I play,” he said. “I play with anger, I play physically. They like it. I have the ability to go bad. It’s like kicking out anyone who comes my way.”
It’s not just about how you play on the field.
“He’s a great leader, he’s a great captain,” said Chico head coach Jason Alwister. “He led exemplary. He was the first there, worked very hard. I’m proud to have coached him.”
One of the main reasons why Chico won its first Northern Section title since 1990 was because of Rufino’s leadership. He hopes to bring his same leadership style to Massachusetts.
“I saw bad examples of what not to do in a locker room and the good things you want to do so I think I can help them change their program,” he said.
Traveling across the country may seem daunting, but Rafino says he’s ready for the opportunity. When he visited the campus before committing, he said it suddenly felt like home.
“I like boys a lot,” he said. “They are good people who want to succeed. What attracted me the most was that I wanted to succeed and improve myself.”
“One of the things I asked him was, ‘Do you feel good about going across the country?'” Coach Alwister said. “He was. I think he’s looking for something adventurous. I think he’s looking for something new. He’s been back there, he’s loved what he’s seen. He’s loved the people he’s seen.”
Rufino’s signing is also historic. He is the first Chico High footballer to sign to play at the next level since 2016. Coach Alwister said it reflects well on the program.
“It reflects the fact that we have quality children who study well in school and dedicate themselves to sports,” he said.