For three of his four years as a Vintage High football player, Louie Canepa had a dilemma that players with twice his experience wish they had.
So he decided which of the roughly 30 NCAA Division I college programs he had been in contact with would be the best fit.
An athletic, fast, 6-foot-3, 297-pound offensive lineman who started college in the past three years, Canepa no longer needed to grow physically to get where he wanted to go, just mentally, Crushers head coach Dylan Leach said during a signing ceremony for Canepa and teammates Diego Davis and Preston Gullum at the Vintage Cafeteria on February 2.
That’s exactly what Canepa did between playing his most recent down, in a Big Game win over crosstown rival Napa High, until signing with New State’s Division I. -Mexico three months later.
“The recruiting process is humbling, but also very rewarding, and he stuck it out and he ended up at a great college football school,” Leach said.
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The coach noted that the Aggies, currently an independent program, will join Conference USA in the fall of 2023. Liberty, Jacksonville State and Sam Houston will join current members UTEP, Western Kentucky, Florida International, Middle Tennessee State and Louisiana Tech.
“Now we’re talking about high-profile college football,” Leach said. “It’s going to be great to see him play. I can’t express how proud I am of him, of the conversations we had, and I’m talking about his career after high school. From that last game to where we are now, I see a growth in him that if he continues on this path, the future for him is just amazing.
Leach ended by turning to Canepa and saying, “Go do what you do and become the guy you always said you would be. I like you.”
His mother, Jeannie Canepa, also spoke out and said Louie and his older brother – former Vintage and Santa Rosa Junior College baseball and football player Joe Canepa – got their ‘DNA’ from their father. , the late Chuck Canepa, who played one season of football. for the University of Idaho.
March 15 will mark the 10th anniversary of Chuck’s passing on March 15, 2012.
“I was 7 or 8. He had an instant heart attack and, out of nowhere,” Canepa said. “It was a bit crazy because he was a great runner – he really liked running – and the doctor told us that if he hadn’t run he would have died eight years earlier. So I wouldn’t even have wouldn’t have been alive if he hadn’t been running on a treadmill. It’s just crazy to think about it.
In lieu of flowers at his celebration of life, donations were requested to be made to his sons’ college fund accounts.
Jeannie Canepa spoke about her youngest son while holding a framed photo.
“I don’t like standing here alone, so I’ll just put Chuck here next to me,” she said.
She remembered filming the video of her first football match on August 25, 2018 in Acalanes.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen with football, but wouldn’t it be fun to have (on video) his very first game.
She recalled how Leach and offensive line coach Dennis Raines came up to her after Canepa’s early games and said, “Jeannie, we’re going to make college pay.”
The room fell silent for a good six seconds as she collected herself. Someone in the audience exclaimed “Coach Raines!” and she continued with “You were right. Thank you. I know it hasn’t been easy. But we made it and it’s just as much an accomplishment for you (coaches) too. (Strength & Conditioning Coach Chris) Yepson, I know Louie put you through a lot.
“But something happened (January 29 during his official visit) to Las Cruces, New Mexico that I had been waiting for three years. I sometimes questioned his motives, saying, ‘How that, you don’t want to go to the state of San Diego?”
Canepa helped Vintage rush for 3,080 yards and 44 touchdowns in the Crushers’ 6-3 season run last fall. A 46-44 loss at Casa Grande in their Vine Valley Athletic League opener ended up preventing them from making the playoffs for a fifth straight season, not including a season in the spring of 2021 in which the playoffs playoffs have been canceled due to the pandemic.
This league-only Spring 2021 season saw Canepa amass 11 pancake blocks as Vintage went 6-0 and had 2,131 and 33 touchdowns over six games. As a sophomore, Canepa helped Vintage rush for 2,648 yards and 32 scores as the Crushers won a playoff game and finished 10-2 overall and 6-0 in the VVAL.
Canepa knew he would be an Aggie after speaking with newly hired New Mexico State head coach Jerry Kill. Kill had just been an associate head coach at TCU, where the head coach was fired with four games left and Kill guided the Horned Frogs to a 2-2 finish.
Kill took over a New Mexico State program that went 2-10 last fall, with one of his losses coming to eventual national runner-up Alabama. He was head coach at five colleges between 1994 and 2014 – Div. II schools in Saginaw Valley State and Emporia State, and DI schools in Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois, and Minnesota. Kill, who suffers from epilepsy, took a four-year hiatus from coaching before returning to help Virginia Tech and TCU.
“Coach Kill, who’s awesome, did one of his speeches,” Jeannie recalled, “and I watched Louie, sitting on a stool, go from slouching to sitting, sitting, sitting, and then I saw his eyes shine up – and that’s what you want Coach Kill and New Mexico State and these amazing coaches have lit him up.
Canepa had never been in the state before this visit, but that didn’t matter.
“I was visiting a school in New York when I was proposed to by Idaho State. I was wondering if I should go to Idaho State or New Mexico State,” recalls- he.” I was really about to go both ways and Coach Kill actually called me. He said ‘Don’t you want to play with the best? You don’t want to play against Alabama? Don’t you want to play against the best competition in the country?’ I want to play with the best, I want to be the best I can be, I want to be challenged, and that’s where I thought it could happen.
He liked that Aggies offensive line coach Andrew Mitchell, who shadowed Kill from the TCU staff, was part of the NFL’s offseason or three-team practice squads.
“Coach Kill put hundreds of people in the NFL,” Canepa said. “I really clicked with him. It really felt like he knew what he was talking about. I really felt like he could take me to the next level. That hit me, honestly.
“It’s also a whole new team of coaches. They fired all the old coaching staff, and Coach Kill only hires people he knows. Everyone is sort of (coached) together, so it’s a very tight-knit group. Coach Kill took pay cuts so he could pay some of the offensive line coaches. I think it’s really going to fall into place. I’m excited.”
Canepa said he is “100% looking forward” to another four years as a student-athlete balancing athletics and academics.
“I look forward to the free meals. They cook breakfast and cook lunch every day,” he said with a smile. “I’m excited to start and work towards the next level. It will definitely be different because I’ll be with airline guys all the time, not everyone like in high school, but I’ll like that.
Canepa plans to get a finance or business degree and become a real estate agent if a career as a professional footballer doesn’t pan out.
“That’s my backup plan,” he said.
Note: Vintage seniors Diego Davis and Preston Gullum also signed Feb. 2 and will be featured in the coming days.
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