Imagine Sam Seale’s pride as his oldest son began paying tribute to one of those sisters, who died of cancer two years ago. Since the start of his junior year at Escondido High School, Ricky Seale’s pregame tradition involves inscribing “Aunt Jackie” on his eye black. He then became the first running back in the history of San Diego area high school football to top 6,000 career rushing yards.
“I miss her energy, said Ricky Seale, one of two prized running backs in Stanford’s 2010 recruiting class, “She was always so positive. I loved her attitude. I know she’d be proud of me on where I’m going now.”
Jackie Seale first kept breast cancer in check, and then held firm once the cells spread to her ovaries. A fighting spirit exists in this family. Ricky zeroed in on Stanford even when it appeared he might not qualify academically. His dad parlayed a Division II college career into ten NFL seasons (1984-1993) at cornerback for the Raiders and Chargers.
Sam – now a Green Bay Packers scout – and Jackie took on the moxie of their mother. Her Caribbean nursing credentials were deemed worthless upon her immigration. She worked years cleaning houses, went back to school, and then became a registered nurse.
The oldest of three siblings, Ricky has been prominent on the radars of opponents since age 10, when he convinced his discerning parents to let him play youth football. His Pop Warner team nearly won a national championship. Comparisons to former local prep stars like Reggie Bush and Ricky Williams emerged as Seale amassed 6,684 yards in four varsity seasons in high school.
Oregon and USC expressed interest. Official scholarship offers arrived from Cal and Arizona. The Montezuma Mesa beckoned, as San Diego State hoped the San Diego Section’s all-time rushing leader would stay home. Stanford remained his first choice while he awaited academic admission. The Aztecs were the back-up plan in case he didn’t get in.
“I was relieved, just excited once the whole thing was over with,” he said.
Seale held firm, officially accepting the Cardinal’s scholarship once Stanford’s admissions department gave its thumbs-up. That occurred a little before 10 p.m. on Signing Day in February.
“He’s relentless,” said Escondido athletic director Steve Bridges. “When he has a goal, he’s going to go after it until he achieves it.”
Coming off a senior season of 2,483 yards and 35 touchdowns on the ground, Seale says the Cardinal reward was two-fold. He desired an opportunity for playing time – he thought USC had too many backs already in place – while earning a Stanford education. The latter’s importance came into view during an otherwise uncertain experience last December.
Escondido stood tied with Eastlake late in the first half of their section semifinal playoff game. Seale took a toss sweep and headed toward the sideline, hoping to stop the clock. He caught his foot in the artificial surface, and the resulting knee strain was so bad it sidelined him from the Cougars’ basketball team for the entire season. Escondido lost by three touchdowns. It was the last carry of his high school football career.
“I think I gained a whole new perspective,” he said. “It was scary. I didn’t know how hurt I was. I was forced to think about a life after football. When I did, I thought about making sure I would have a Stanford degree when that time comes.”
Dad knows this much is certain: Playbooks and textbooks share identical value.
“I want him to know to not put football on the back burner,” he said. “I want him to give them both equal time, and to do them both with an equal amount of intensity.”
The injury is but a memory now, with Seale again among the top high school sprinters in the North County. Dad’s work may keep him on the road a lot, but there was time Tuesday for movie night (“Avatar” was the featured flick).
Seale finds home in austerity, while living in comfortable surroundings. The lone piece of flare hanging from his bedroom walls is picture of Reggie White, significant only because it was a present from his dad.
With Seale and fellow freshman Anthony Wilkerson of Tustin (6,353 career yards), Stanford has two of California’s 22 all-time career high school rushing leaders in one recruiting class.
They are easily the Cardinal’s best rookie twin-pack of their position since the 1993 class featured Greg Comella and Mike Mitchell. They are the first two of their kind at Stanford since 27 years ago, when coach Paul Wiggin kept Marshall Dillard (Bakersfield) and Brad Muster (San Marin High in Novato) in-state.
He’s not the most famous tailback from San Diego to sport a personalized look beneath his facemask. That merit belongs to “The President,” as he was known during his prep days in La Mesa. Prior to dating famous eye candy, Reggie Bush stenciled his hometown area code (619) on his eye black. Seale actually met Bush at USC’s pro day four years ago. He downplays the comparisons, but knows they’ll continue if his stock rises and he keeps making Aunt Jackie proud.
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