SANTA BARBARA - Sage Sobrado overcame huge odds to play football for Santa Barbara City College and earn All-State honors in 2018. The 6-3, 295-pound sophomore center signed a national letter-of-intent on Wednesday as he accepted a full-ride scholarship to Southeast Missouri State.
Sobrado played eight-man football in high school at Fresno Christian. In his senior year, he was diagnosed with a pulmony embolism (blood clots in the lungs) and he's one out of 300,000 people to have ulcerative colitis.
"One day at school, I was helping to rake the baseball field and I couldn't breathe," he recalled. "I was starting to see colors and I passed out. I was taken to the hospital and they found out that 95% of my lungs were occluded and my heart was turning sideways. I was airlifted to UC San Francisco hospital where I stayed for five months. The doctors said I almost died."
He underwent three surgeries (two for intestinal bleeding and one for blood clots) and lost 60 pounds in a month. The doctors told him not to play football in the future.
"I just wanted to play, so I didn't listen," he said. "I had to take a gap year and I was on heavy blood thinners and other medications. During that time, I worked full time and regained the weight to try to play again."
He earned unanimous first-team All-American Pacific League honors as a guard and tackle in 2018, then was named to the All-State Region 4 team. This year, he moved to center and broke his ankle on the first play of the second game at San Bernardino Valley. He tried to play again in Week 6 vs. L.A. Pierce and ruptured ligaments in his ankle to end his season.
Western Illinois offered Sobrado a scholarship and Southeast Missouri State came to visit in early December. He met with them on a Wednesday and made his official visit to Cape Girardeau, Mo., on Friday.
The Redhawks are an FCS team that plays in the Ohio Valley Conference. They went 9-4 this year and made the FCS playoffs.
"It was great playing at SBCC, I really love the coaches, they're great to be around," said Sobrado. "And playing across from the beach isn't bad either."
Sobrado said he's going to major in Criminology and wants to join a SWAT team someday.
"It's a real accomplishment to make all-state as a lineman, especially in your freshman year," said Vaquero coach Craig Moropoulos. "We moved him from tackle to center as a sophomore and that's a tough position, the quarterback of the offensive line.
"He worked hard all spring and had an excellent first game vs. Compton. Then that first play at San Bernardino, he got rolled from behind and that happens sometimes. As he said, he's good at overcoming adversity and that's what he did, to even try to come back and play in Week 6 was impressive."
Moropoulos says the Ohio Valley Conference is a strong football league.
"I think he'll do well, nobody has a crystal ball but his dedication and willingness to go the extra mile and deal with adversity are great qualities. He's a good student and he'll do fine," Moropoulos said.
(Dave Loveton, Santa Barbara City College Athletics)