Ashton Stredick’s Needville High School team was facing Canyon Lake in the Texas Class 4A bi-district playoffs last season when one of the Bluejays’ best players was ejected.
“Oh no, what are we going to do?” Stredick recalled thinking during an interview last week. “At that point I knew it was up on me to take the team to a win. So I just had to do what I had to do.”
What he did was something out of a football video game: 508 rushing yards with touchdown runs of 76, 62, 39, 74 and 90 yards in Needville’s 40-33 victory.
His rushing yardage total was the 16th-best best in Texas public school history, according to the Houston Chronicle. But it was only a piece of the spectacular season Stredick assembled at Needville, a suburb about 40 miles outside Houston.
Now a walk-on freshman at Cal, Stredick finished his high school senior season with 3,105 yards while helping Needville to its first district title in 32 years.
“That was pretty crazy but I wasn’t very surprised because I worked my butt off for that,” Stredick said of his numbers. “It was just an outcome of my hard work.”
Over his three-season varsity career, the 5-foot-9, 185-pounder totaled 6,420 yards with 88 touchdowns.
Stredick committed to Princeton of the Ivy League during his junior season, then began to have second thoughts. “I was like, `I don’t know if this really is the home for me,’ “ he said.
He confirms he also received a scholarship offer from Baylor, but it was Cal that began to intrigue him last spring, especially as he developed a comfort zone with new running backs coach Aristotle Thompson.
“I started talking to coach A.T. every day and we just started building a relationship,” Stredick said. “I knew it was where I wanted to be because everyone seemed like they were on the same page as far as far as what their goals were for me.
“And I like that everyone here has been treating me as just another friend or brother. I really like that about Cal. That’s really how I got here.”
Stredick arrived at Cal as a non-scholarship walk-on, but that status won’t necessarily be permanent.
“We take our walk-on program extremely seriously,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said. “We’ve had a lot of success with people walking on and earning scholarships.
“When we recruit a walk-on, we think in our mind that person will have an opportunity to earn a scholarship, that caliber of person and player. He’s one of those guys.”
*** Stredick talks about his high school career and his motivation to excel at Cal:
The Bears’ most recent prominent examples of walk-ons who made it big are safety Ashtyn Davis, a third-round draft pick by the New York Jets last spring, and running back Patrick Laird, who rushed for 2,088 yards his final two seasons at Cal and earned a spot on the Miami Dolphins roster the past two seasons as an undrafted free agent.
“It influenced me a lot,” Stredick said. “Coming here and know their success rate for walk-ons is pretty high, I felt pretty good about that.”
“Ashton is going to be a very good one for us.” Thompson said. “Obviously, he walked on, but for us, we don't really care how they come here. Once you're in the building as a Bear, you are a Bear.”
Thompson says Stredick will have a role on special teams and, eventually, contribute as a running back. Stredick hopes to see action as a punt return man and on Cal's punt coverage unit this fall.
“Ashton, now, he's got some heat. If you don't know what I mean by heat, he is fast,” Thompson said. “We got some little things we're going to continue to work on and push him, but Ashton is fast.”
Stredick, who was clocked at 4.48 seconds for 40 yards last year, isn’t clear on why more schools didn’t recruit him. But he's happy with how things have turned out.
“Maybe I was just supposed to be here as a walk-on so I could work 10 times harder than I would have if I was on scholarship.”
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo
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