Wave Staff Report
LOS ANGELES — Joe Torres, who heads the football program at King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science, has been named high school coach of the year by the Los Angeles Chargers.
The award makes him a candidate for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award. The winner, chosen from candidates of other pro football franchises, will be announced Feb. 12 at Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona.
Torres, who met Dean Spanos, the Chargers’ owner, head coach Brandon Staley and other team executives, will attend the game in Arizona. He also was a guest of the NFL at the Pro Bowl Games in Las Vegas, last weekend where the NFL’s best competed in athletic skills.
Under Torres’ leadership, King/Drew made a statement early, winning the team’s opener. The Golden Eagles advanced to the second round of the City Section playoffs, a rare feat for a program making its debut. Finishing the season 9-3 overall, the Chargers took notice and made Torres this year’s winner.
“Winning an award is a big achievement, not just for me, but for my staff,” said Torres of the commitment needed for the team’s success.
The magnet school in Willowbrook, best known for its academics in medicine and science, with a waiting list of more than 200 students, has been expanding its sports program. Besides the boys’ team, girls will be competing this coming year in flag football.
In an era where the number of prep boys football players nationwide has been declining, more than 140 boys at King/Drew tried out for the team last year, showing a substantial interest in the sport.
Such enthusiasm for the sport overcame potential distractions. For instance, King/Drew commuted to Gompers Middle School and played home games at a community college. A new football field is planned to open next year.
After playing college football at Pierce and Compton colleges, Torres moved to Indiana University, followed by six years of professional football. He settled in Baltimore, where he helped build St. Frances into a powerhouse.
Yearning to return to the West Coast, he landed at St. Bernard’s, coaching the team to the playoffs. Torres then duplicated the achievement at King/Drew.
Initially, he sought to coach at the college level. But he changed his mind after learning male athletes, making up close to half of the 1,400-member student body at King/Drew, were eager to play football.
Torres blended experienced players with those new to the sport, emphasizing player development. The result has led to seven players potentially signing with college teams, including one to Georgetown University, with more expected to come.
As word spreads about the school’s talent pool, more college coaches have visited Willowbrook, including UCLA head coach Chip Kelly. Other top coaches from out-of-state schools also have called.
Torres expects more team success next season.
“I’m excited to lead the helm and do great things at King/Drew,” he said.
Matthew Castenada of Diamond Bar High School was the Rams high school coach of the year.