The next two weekends, SDSU will host its annual passing tournaments. The 7-on-7 competition is an opportunity for participating teams to build chemistry for the upcoming season. Held on campus, it is also a chance for high school coaches to build college awareness among the young people they lead.
The tournaments offer athletes the opportunity for live evaluation from college coaches. Programs from around the western half of the United States will be in attendance. As host, SDSU’s staff will be present en masse.
Day one of each two-day tournament is pool play. Based on those results, the teams are ranked for a double-elimination tournament on the second day. In the end, one team will leave the Mesa as that weekend’s champion.
Rancho Cucamonga defensive back Rahim Wright is the perfect example of what can happen for someone at SDSU’s passing tournaments. Last year, he competed on the second weekend. His Cougars won the title, defeating Mater Dei Chula Vista, 26-16. Wright was a standout performer.
A two-way athlete his entire life, he was forced to focus on one position in high school. He played quarterback as an underclassman. Heading into his junior season in 2022, Wright turned his attention to defensive back, a position he last played in middle school.
Rancho Cucamonga was allowed only four practices prior to competing at SDSU. The tournament represented Wright’s fifth and sixth days of team activities at his new position. He excelled.
“It was real important,” Rahim Wright explained on an upcoming episode of The SDSU Podcast when asked how the tournament aided his switch back to safety. “I felt like as long as I did my job to help the team win, I would get better throughout the season. The tournament helped the team gain more teamwork and trust in each other.”
During pool play, he intercepted a pass from then Chandler High QB Dylan Raiola. The current No. 1 overall prospect for the Class of 2024, Raiola made national news three weeks ago after flipping his college commitment from Ohio State to Georgia.
“Just for him right away to go out and start for us without coming in with much experience, to be able to play against teams like Lincoln, Mater Dei, Chandler in Arizona, Sierra Canyon, the types of caliber programs that were there, he was immediately thrown into the fire,” Rancho Cucamonga head coach Brian Hildebrand told EVT in an exclusive interview. “You have that caliber of teams and athletes that they have with good coaching; he saw everything right away. From my perspective, to see the growth that he had in just two short days, we knew we had something special in Rahim.”
The following day, in the semifinal of the tournament, Wright and Rancho Cucamonga earned a rematch with Lincoln, who defeated them during pool play. The Hornets needing a late touchdown, had the ball on the five-yard line going in.
At the snap, four-star RB Roderick Robinson lined up on the left of the formation, ran a post to the back of the end zone. With a step on his man, Robinson was in position to elevate for the score. The QB read the play perfectly and delivered a good, well-paced throw that would have reached its intended target, except for an amazing play made by Wright.
Lined up at the goal line, 15 feet from the QB and 25 feet from the intended receiver, Wright leaped and made the game-sealing interception.
“It came down to one of the final possessions in that game,” Hildebrand recollected. “Rahim went out there probably got up a good three or four feet in the air. It was a pretty unbelievable sight. He kind of levitated in front of the entire stadium. It took the wind out of the entire place. He intercepted a ball against Lincoln that sealed the win. I remember after that play, (SDSU head) coach (Brady) Hoke came up to me and said, ‘Who is that kid?’”
Rahim Wright Commits to SDSU
Buoyed by the great camp, Wright slotted in perfectly in Rancho Cucamunga’s secondary that had DI talent at every position. Listed at six feet and 176 pounds, Wright played safety and was utilized all over the field for the Cougars. He played man, deep zone, short zone and helped in run support on his way to earning all-league honors.
After the terrific season, offers began to roll in. In just the first few months of 2023, Sacramento State, San Jose State, Idaho, Washington State, Utah State, and San Diego State all extended scholarship opportunities. Wright took an unofficial visit to SDSU at the end of March and attended the Spring Game. He committed to the Aztecs a week later.
At SDSU, Wright profiles as a warrior safety and possibly a cornerback in the mold of Dez Malone. He said his versatility is his best trait as a player.
“(SDSU) was very close to home,” Wright said about why he chose the Aztecs. “The location is real nice. My parents can come up there whenever for the weekend. Their program is a real good program (with) good coaches to develop me.”
Rahim Wright’s Elite Athleticism
More than most high school athletes, Wright is dripping with potential. On film, he was not always efficient with his footwork or the angles that he took to the ball carrier. At times he was slow to read the offense’s intentions. He looked like someone still learning how to play safety. Nonetheless, Wright overcame that challenge with an asset few possess, elite athleticism.
“He does things that just shock you daily that are just abnormal for guys on the high school level, really any level,” Hildebrand explained. “He does things that stand out as abnormal. He’s one of those, as a football player, that can do everything on the field. …. He makes those types of freak plays. He’s somebody that has the athleticism of any Power Five guy as a recruit. For him, it was getting experience last season. It was his first real-time playing defensive back, and he did it at a high level. His ceiling is tremendous for what he’s able to do and the skillset that he has.”
Like the play described above at the passing tournament, Wright impacts the game in unexpected ways. Lincoln’s QB made the correct throw; Wright just did something the QB could not have anticipated. This same quality leaps out from his film.
Even when out of position or making an awkward step, Wright was able to still make the play. There is every reason to expect a huge leap in production as his familiarity with the position and his ability grow.
His athleticism was on display this spring in another way. Wright competed on the track and field team in multiple events. He was most successful in the Long Jump, where he finished in the CIF-SS Masters Meet, a level below the State Final. His personal best of 23’-1” was only 3’-9” off the United States high school all-time mark of 26’-10” set in 2009 by former Olympian Long Jumper and current NFL WR Marquise Goodwin.
Rancho Cucamonga is one of the better high schools in Southern California. Wright will be playing this upcoming season with another SDSU commit, Stacy Bey. In addition, a pair of his teammates, Kyron Kondoll and Amaurey Brooks, have offers from the Aztecs.
“I have to say in the past two years, coach Hoke and his staff have done a great job of identifying players, recruiting players that definitely fit their program, but they see a lot of that potential early,” Hildebrand said. “They see guys and identify them accurately. They know who’s who. Some teams will wait around before they offer a guy (SDSU is), doing a good job identifying guys pretty early on. … If they like somebody and it fits their mold of what they want at that position, they do a good job of building those relationships. Coach Sumler, for instance, has always done a great job in our area.”
“For our guys understanding that we’ve had players such as Darren Hall that have come through our program and had success at San Diego State and is now playing with the Atlanta Falcons or any of the number of players that have come from our area. With the new stadium and everything exciting that’s going on with San Diego State, for a lot of our guys, it’s a no-brainer to want to stay home.”
After Hall’s success on the Mesa, the Aztecs’ staff have been hunting for the next athlete from Rancho Cucamonga High. Next week, they will get an in-person opportunity to evaluate the 2023 squad. The Cougars will be looking for back-to-back championships.
Any standouts from the next two weekends can expect their profile to rise in the eyes of college coaches. SDSU’s Passing Tournaments can lead to a scholarship; just ask Rahim Wright.
My earliest sport’s memory involve tailgating at the Murph, running down the circular exit ramps, and seeing the Padres, Chargers and Aztecs play. As a second generation Aztec, I am passionate about all things SDSU. Other interests include raising my four children, being a great husband and teaching high school.