Cal Poly football fans have seen successful NFL coaches, players, business leaders and engineers wear the Cal Poly green and gold for more than 75 years. For the last four years, they have also been cheering for a pioneer — in 2007, Jake Romanelli became the first football player from Templeton High School to earn a Division I football scholarship.
“I am very honored to be the first, and that is not to say there were not players before me who could have played at this level,” Romanelli said. “There are going to be a bunch of kids who come after me that are going to be signing letters.”
Romanelli was a standout defensive and running back at Templeton, where he earned All-State honors as an all-purpose player his senior year. Templeton made the playoffs that season, even though they moved into the tougher Los Padres League. He chose Cal Poly over scholarship offers from Colorado State, University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and Fresno State. For Romanelli, the decision to be a Mustang was an easy one.
“It was not hard choosing Cal Poly after visiting it,” Romanelli said. “It has been a dream come true ever since.”
The multiple offers that Romanelli received have helped break the stigma that Templeton was just another small school football program.
“They definitely stepped their program up when we were in high school,” senior defensive end and Atascadero High graduate Brandon Roberts said. “They were ranked in the Top-10 in the area and had a really good football team.”
After redshirting his first season, Romanelli spent his freshman season mostly playing special teams and was a backup fullback for the 2008 Cal Poly team that won the Great West. He became the starting fullback as a sophomore and earned first team All-Great West honors. That season, he average 4.6 yards per carry and rushed for more than 100 yards against Southern Utah.
A feat he repeated again in 2011 with 101 yards against the Thunderbirds on Saturday.
Romanelli duplicated that success as a junior when he was named All-Great West second team fullback, and led the Mustangs with eight rushing touchdowns.
“The interior run game opens up everything else in our offense,” offensive coordinator Bryan Cook said. “Jake is a physical guy with good speed, and when he runs a straight line, you can see the difference between him and a smaller back.”
Romanelli and quarterback Andre Broadous make up an offense that leads the Great West in rushing — this season Jake leads the Mustangs in rushing with 550 yards and has scored six touchdowns. The Mustangs need to win five more games in order for Romanelli and fellow seniors to bookend their careers with conference championships and playoff appearances. Even after receiving individual accolades, he said he will remember the wins and losses more.
“I’ll always remember our Great West Championship team because it was the first ring I ever won,” Romanelli said. “And this year, we have the talent and leadership to do it again.”
Romanelli is a business administration senior and, like many seniors at Cal Poly, said he is still unsure where life will take him after college. However, where ever his career takes him, he said it will never be far enough away to make him forget his hometown.
“I am not sure if I will go back after school, but who is to say I won’t?” Romanelli said. “Templeton will always be home no matter what.”