East Union High 2011 graduates TJ Gordon and Dominic Borba took similar routes to where they’re currently at – taking their talents to NAIA schools and continuing their football careers.
After representing the Lancers from 2007-10, both Gordon and Borba didn’t suit up and take the gridiron in 2011-12. However, they reacquainted as teammates at Modesto JC the last two seasons and both inked National Letter sof Intent to compete at the NAIA level at their alma mater’s library Thursday morning.
Borba will leave today and will begin a 17-unit class load Monday at Friends University in Wichita, Kan.
Gordon, who starred at quarterback for East Union his senior year and led his squad to the Sac-Joaquin Section postseason, will head to the College of Idaho in February to start school and the Coyotes’ off-season/summer routines.
It will be a new routine for Gordon and Idaho, who will begin its first football season in over 30 years.
“I was kind of skeptical at first because it’s a brand new program they’re starting up,” said Gordon, who was an All-Conference and All-State quarterback in both ’12 and ’13 for the Pirates. “I got some other offers, but they didn’t really fit where I wanted to go -- and Idaho was the closest.”
College of Idaho head coach Mike Moroski, who coached alongside Modesto JC head coach Sam Young while the two were at UC Davis, plans to run a spread offense against the Frontier Conference. Gordon, who passed for 2,772 yards and 23 TDs for the Pirates (6-5) in the Valley Conference this year, should be a perfect fit after piloting a similar style that resembles the pace of the Oregon Ducks.
“I took a trip to (Caldwell) Idaho a couple of days ago,” Gordon said. “Everyone was nice and the campus was beautiful, and I gave my verbal on (Wednesday).
“They’re a young team and need a fast quarterback. They want me to come in and start and be a mentor for the younger guys.”
Gordon , who accepted a full-ride scholarship from College of Idaho, plans on majoring in business administration with a minor in psychology after transferring from Modesto JC. He opted with Idaho instead of a Division II school in Arkansas and another NAIA school in Missouri, who was offering something similar to College of Idaho.
After high school, Gordon red shirted with coach Paul Brogan and the Modesto JC basketball squad after the football team tried to utilize him at wide receiver.
That wasn’t where Gordon wanted to play or where he felt comfortable, so he went back to the hardwood before getting his tryout to be the Pirates’ starting quarterback the next offseason.
Borba, on the other hand, didn’t try out for basketball.
The former East Union linebacker who converted to defensive line in 2012 at MJC, decided a different route after graduation.
“I was going to school to be an EMT,” said Borba, who was also coaching at the EU freshman lower level in the fall following his graduation. “I missed (playing) too much. I was working out and getting in shape and I just felt selfish for not playing when other people dream of playing (after high school).”
Since graduating from East Union, Borba says he’s put on 40 pounds of muscle. And after having a not-so great sophomore campaign as a Pirate because of a season-long turf toe issue, he can’t wait to jump into the mix in a new town of 600,000.
Unlike Gordon, Borba didn’t have all the accolades, honors and offensive statistics to put himself on the map – he had to do all the recruiting work himself, respectably.
“I started sending out film about two weeks after the season,” he said. “I got a lot of interest from small schools, and it was actually between Ottawa University and Friends – two Kansas rivals. I chose Friends because of their defense primarily, and it’s in a big city.
“I made my highlight tape (using Huddle). All the teams are going to it now. They record every single play, and if it’s a good play, you just highlight it and edit it You have to recruit for yourself. That’s what some people don’t realize.”
Borba pieced together his own highlight reel and sent it out to the top-25 NAIA schools across the country. He landed his partial academic ($3,000) and athletic ($9,000) scholarship from Friends with that highlight tape alone.
“I wanted to go to a Christian school, and it seemed like a perfect fit,” said Borba, who plans to major in communications and media planning. “Once I make the roster, I could make more money (on scholarships). They haven’t met me or anything, so basically what they’ve offered was off my 5-minute highlight tape.”
Borba and Gordon were both on East Union’s last winning varsity team under then-head coach Mike James. East Union’s current head coach Willie Herrera, who played ball at NAIA Eastern Oregon, is the older brother of Borba. Herrera was his younger brother’s position coach in 2010 before landing the head coaching position the year after.
“My brother is my idol,” Borba concluded. “That’s why I came to East Union. It was the best thing I could have done. I’ve matured as an athlete and as a student – and it’s all because of East Union, honestly. I think EU prepared me for the next level and I’m proud to have come here.”