Jake Shipley interacts with many college football recruiters. But only one made a pair of 1,000-mile roundtrips to watch him play basketball.
Yes, Tony Tuioti is clear in how much he wants the defensive lineman from California to play for him. Just as important — the coach really seems like he cares.
“Usually coaches come down and are recruiting kids from all around where I live at different schools,” Shipley said. “He came just to watch me.”
The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder from Indio Shadow Hills holds a variety of Pac-12 offers, including Oregon and Arizona State. Cal joined the fray in mid-January, when Tuioti extended an opportunity.
After Tuioti became Nebraska’s defensive line coach last week, he hit the ground running. Tuioti made offers Friday to Shipley and at least three other potential 2020 additions.
“Coach Tony called me and said his feelings on me don’t change and they want to offer me if I’m interested,” Shipley said. “And I am interested in Nebraska — it’s a really prestigious school.”
The Huskers also targeted Iowa Western’s Perrion Winfrey along with California high school prospects Tuli Tuipulotu and Jamar Sekona in their first known recruiting actions under Tuioti. Tuipulotu and Sekona each have Cal offers and, like Tuioti, are of Polynesian descent.
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Sekona, a 6-3, 305-pound standout from Greenbrae Marin, had been trading messages with Nebraska about an unofficial visit before Tuioti came aboard. But the consensus four-star prospect has also known the new NU assistant for more than a year, having taken multiple short drives across the San Francisco Bay to visit Cal and sit in on defensive line meetings and practices.
What Sekona noticed was how Tuioti never tried to oversell him. With the Cal players, Sekona saw someone who explained the whys behind the technique and has a love of teaching uncommon in a just-do-it culture of coaches.
“What sets him different from the other guys is his ability to coach you tough but be able to help you grow as a man,” Sekona said. “Coach Tuioti treats his players fair. It’s those who are willing to put in the work. He emphasizes that.
“He doesn’t care who’s the best player; it’s who’s putting in the best work and who’s going to help us do the job. He loves his job and is serious about it and wants to have a winning team with players who can thrive.”
With at least six Pac-12 offers, including Oregon and USC, Sekona said he plans to take his time with the recruiting process. Tuioti’s move doesn’t much affect his standing with Cal or Nebraska, he said, other than to make visiting Lincoln a higher priority in the next eight months.
Tuipulotu, meanwhile, added his Cal offer in early February before Tuioti reached out with one from Nebraska. He also has an offer from Wisconsin along with multiple West Coast schools. His brother, Marlon, is a defensive lineman at USC.
The three-star recruit from Lawndale, California, told Rivals’ Cal website last month he was looking forward to getting to know Tuioti more.
Sekona said players take notice when a coach changes addresses. With Tuioti, the sentiment is he must be doing something right.
“I knew the type of coach he was and he knew the type of player I was,” Sekona said. “So, basically, telling me how he’s going to be the same and coach the same was really good to hear, because at Cal they’re obviously building a successful program and him going to a school like Nebraska with a great program can only mean he’s doing better.”