Mt. Carmel’s Tobe Ezeokoli (left to right), Mar Vista’s Jimmie Hill and Francis Parker’s Zach Schmid salute their college of choice — Harvard.
In solidarity, three seniors flashed a symbol before a sea of hundreds inside the San Diego Hall of Champions on Wednesday.
It was an “H.” And it stood for Harvard.
“As a kid, I never thought it would be attainable,” said Mar Vista running back Jimmie Hill, who stood side by side with Francis Parker’s Zach Schmid and Mt. Carmel’s Tobe Ezeokoli. “And now, I sit here with (Zach) and (Tobe), papers in my hand, about to become a Harvard student-athlete. It’s surreal.”
Smiling ear-to-ear, the trio, dressed in Harvard Crimson and White, inked their collegiate careers to the institution in Cambridge, Mass., signing what are called “likely” letters in the Ivy League on national letter-of-intent signing day.
“It’s so humbling to be joining an amazing group of people who are going to accomplish amazing things in their futures,” said Schmid, an All-America punter. “To see your hard work pay off and your dream finally come to fruition is an unbelievable feeling.”
Ezeokoli, Schmid and Hill were three of 49 local football players to sign and fax out letters of intent to their respective colleges.
In addition to the trio, 100- plus other student-athletes — representing a number of schools and sports around the county — participated in the Hall of Champions ceremony joined by family, friends and coaches.
“A number of schools expressed interest in me, but education was always the number one factor for me,” Ezeokoli said. “So, when some of the Ivy League schools reached out to me, I immediately narrowed my decision down to one of those.
“They stressed the opportunities I would receive and the number of doors that a Harvard education would open for me in the future.”
Like Ezeokoli, Hill and Schmid entertained other Division I schools but picked Harvard when they visited the campus.
“To be honest, I expected some socially inept, quiet, brilliant people, but what I found there were people who are outgoing, passionate, excited and humble, which I felt was the perfect fit for me,” Schmid said.
“I remember discussing political efficacy and the parallels to partisanship with two of the students and it was the most amazing discussion I’ve ever had. To me, the student body is what set Harvard apart from the other schools.”
Not to mention the football program. Harvard has won the Ivy League football championship five times since 2001.
“It truly is the best of both worlds,” Schmid said. “At the end of the day, athletics won’t last forever. I want to change the world one day, whether that’s being a philanthropist, serving as a politician, enlisting in the military, or being a lawyer. I think Harvard will allow me to accomplish that.”