Kevin Lepola Jr. has signed his name hundreds of times, but all have paled in comparison to the one he sketched Saturday.
Lepola, a senior at Kodiak High School, signed a national letter of intent to play football for the College of the Redwoods, a junior college in northern California, next fall.
“I was shaking,” Lepola said. “I was writing my letter and you could see scribbles. It was weird. I have signed bout sheets after winning (wrestling) matches and I have never been more nervous to sign my name.”
Like most students growing up in Kodiak, Lepola never dreamed of playing intercollegiate sports.
“It is awesome,” he said. “I never thought that I would get the chance.”
Sports — in particular football and wrestling — have been a part of his life from the get-go.
His football career began in fifth grade, and by the time he reached high school he was Kodiak’s starting quarterback.
Former Kodiak coach Todd Cook said he normally didn’t start freshmen, but Lepola was ready.
“We felt that he had a good sense of what was going on,” Cook said. “He wasn’t awe-struck with being on the field as a freshman — that didn’t get into his head.”
That year, Lepola led Kodiak to the small-school state championship game, eventually losing to Soldotna.
Lepola played two more years at quarterback, another at wide receiver and collected 1,298 all-purpose offensive yards and 16 touchdowns.
“Kevin is one of those players who has a motor,” Cook said. “He would play on the line if we let him. He constantly wants to get in the game and get involved.
“He was always great to have on the team. He has a great sense of humor and a great personality. He definitely led by example on the field with his enthusiasm and intensity.”
Lepola said he has been told he will play quarterback at College of the Redwoods, but really doesn’t care what position he plays.
“I would play kicker if I had too,” he said.
Lepola enjoyed playing many positions during his four years for Kodiak.
“I swear, though, I should have been an offensive lineman,” he said. “Every time that I could get the chance, I would go out and block for our running backs.”
Lepola follows the footsteps of Ben Watkins, a Kodiak graduate who starred for the Redwoods football team a few years ago.
He said Watkins was a big help in deciding to choose the Redwoods, but it ultimately came down to geography.
“What killed me is I didn’t want to go somewhere that was away from the ocean. I’ve been on an island my whole life,” Lepola said.
Cook believes Lepola has the tools to compete in college.
“He is one of the players that has the potential to progress onto a higher level,” Cook said. “I think several of our guys could go onto a higher level if they apply themselves. His success will be based on how well he applies himself and how focused he remains in the next couple of years.”
Lepola, the second Kodiak senior to sign a letter of intent to play college football next fall, credited his father for helping him get better as an athlete.
“He really was inspiring,” Lepola said.
Lepola, who plans to major in criminal justice, also thanked his coaches and teammates through the years.
“They helped me through everything,” he said.
Contact Mirror writer Derek Clarkston at sports@kodiak