Making the transition
Safety Christopher Santini lined up at LB at the Stanford NFTC and almost won MVP
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- If you haven't heard of Christopher Santini yet, fear not, you're not alone on this one.
The 2012 recruit from San Jose (Calif.) Leland hasn't received a lot of recognition up to this point. After Sunday's Nike Football Training Camp at Stanford however, the days of being overlooked appear to be coming to an end for the 6-foot-1 and 200-pounder.
"Exposure is important, that's why I wanted to come out to this camp and do well. Hopefully, I can get my name out there on the West Coast and national level," Santini said.
Such a scenario doesn't happen overnight. Things don't work that way.
The defensive back, recently turned linebacker, did take a big step in the right direction at the NFTC though. Performing well during the individual skill tests was a plus. It's also worth mentioning that Santini held his own, and then some, in the one-on-one drills against a number of high-profile players.
Attempting to slow down ESPN 150 Watch List players, running back Robert Lewis (South Gate, Calif./South East) and receiver Davonte Neal (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral), was a challenge throughout and matching up against tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick (Rocklin, Calif./Whitney), also on the ESPNU 150 Watch List, proved to be a daunting task from start to finish.
Nevertheless, Santini persevered against his top-notch peers. Backing down wasn't an option, that's not in his makeup. He didn't take home MVP honors for linebackers -- that honor went to Daniel Halverson (Portland, Ore./Grant) -- but Santini was certainly in the running.
The fact he did so well comes as somewhat of surprise considering his normal position is in the secondary but he's projected to play linebacker at the next level. And given his well-rounded frame, loads of athleticism and immense upside overall, moving a couple of steps closer to the line of scrimmage makes complete sense.
"Chris has started at defensive back for us since he was a freshman, his future is at linebacker though," said Leland coach Mike Carrozzo. "I have college coaches calling me all the time, asking about him and how things are coming along with recruiting."
Santini has scholarship offers from seven programs thus far, most notably Boise State and Utah. All signs point to other schools joining in on the Santini sweepstakes soon.
"Here's the problem with him, I don't have 22 other players just like Chris on this team," said Carrozzo. "Our games on Friday night end late, most times. But it's not uncommon for me to hear about Chris hitting the weight room afterward, until midnight on those days. No one works harder. He does so many things well for us. He makes everyone else around him better."
Santini proved as much as time and time again as a sophomore when he had 98 tackles, 58 solo stops, for Leland. He also had three blocked field goals, two interceptions, a pair of fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.
It was more of the same during his junior season. Santini had 102 tackles, 63 of which were unassisted, three fumbles and two interceptions.
It will be interesting to see if he can duplicate that type of production during his senior year for Leland. One thing is certain: The Chargers will be counting on him to do so. If the past is any indication of what's in store for the future, Santini will be perfectly fine.
Several Pac-12 programs have upped the stakes, and accordingly, expressed varied levels of interest in him. Go ahead and count Arizona State as a potential suitor, although the Sun Devils have not offered. Same goes for UCLA and Oregon.
Santini has also spoken with the coaching staffs over at Penn State, Syracuse and Tennessee. Each school could emerge as a potential destination down the road.
"Things are starting to pick up for me," Santini said. "I've worked hard to improve, whether it's been at defensive back or at linebacker. It doesn't matter where I line up on the field, my job is to go out there and get the job done. I want to make a name for myself.''
So far, so good. And there's no arguing his accomplishments lately.
Santini's days of flying underneath the radar are a thing of the past.
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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