Junior Espitia, son of Max Espitia and Carrie Harper, dreamed to play football for the California Golden Bears since he was a child. Last February, he signed a letter of intent to play Division I football for the University of California in Berkeley. He’ll have the opportunity to play Fullback/Halfback for Head Coach Jeff Tedford. Things were rough for Junior with family adversity and other challenges, but he never gave up on a childhood dream—he persevered and reached his destination.

“Every minute of everyday is such a joy to be his mom. Words can’t describe how proud of him I am. I will miss him when he leaves for college, but I am very excited to watch him grow and be the best young man he can be … I love my son,” said Carrie, his mom.

Junior maintained a 3.6 GPA in high school while playing football at South Salem High School in Oregon. He was selected First Team All-League Central Valley Conference, Offensive Player of the Year—Quarterback, and 2012 Male Athlete of the Year.

He gives his mom full credit for his success in grades. She would not allow him to play sports if his grades were not up to standards.

“I have a great brother and I’m proud of him. I’m so excited to watch him play next year,” said Lexie, his sister.

What inspired you to become a football player?

My Great Grandpa, Charles Pierce, he always talked football to me. He would make me do calisthenics and football drills. He also watched me play football with my cousins giving me pointers on how to get better. When I was in 7th grade I started playing in the Boys and Girls Club Football League. I was inspired by the high school players, and I’d watch a lot of games. One of the quarterbacks I used to watch was Brett Smith, he now plays for Wyoming.

What kind of things have you done to improve your game?

As a freshman in high school, I started lifting weights. Coach Dufault encouraged me to work out to my highest potential. My parents took me to football camps, sports/agility camps, and combine camps. When I was a sophomore I attended the USC Football Camp and the OSU Football Camp. My senior year, Eric Thompson, from Willamette University worked with me—three times a week before 6 a.m. I eat pretty healthy, my mom usually cooks healthy meals at home and I’ve started taking protein shakes.

What obstacles have you faced that you overcame?

When I was in the 8th grade, my parents went through a divorce—very difficult for me. I relied on my mom for everything. I used to call her D-Mom—“Dad-Mom”. She was always there for me. Sometimes I felt like just giving up; I lost motivation. D-Mom kept me going. When she wasn’t around, my friends were great support to help me through. I’m thankful for them. I once broke my nose when I was in 4th grade and in 6th grade I had a stress fracture during basketball season. I couldn’t play for six weeks.

Tell us about why you committed to Oregon State University but then changed your mind and signed with University of California.

My dream list included, first, to play DI college football, second, to play at California.  OSU offered me first. I liked the program there and the coaches were outstanding. I guess I jumped the gun when I realized my number one dream came true—to play DI Football. But when Cal offered late, my heart had to go with my childhood dream. I’ve always loved the University of California—I’m originally from Woodland, California. That’s why I made my decision to switch from OSU to Cal.

How did it feel to step onto California Golden Bear turf during your recruiting trip?

It felt like a big relief from my shoulders—a DI dream school. A newly renovated Memorial Stadium, amazing. Playing for Jeff Tedford is something I’ll look forward to in a brand new stadium.

What advice can you give young kids that want to follow your footsteps?

Never let people talk you down. Never give up on your dream. Embrace what you love and follow it. Always remember the people that loved you and took care of you. And always work hard because there’s always someone faster and better.

What is your goal in life, what do you want to be when you grow up?

In college, I’ll do some exploring first, but eventually I’d like to go into the Business Management field with Architecture in mind. I’ve always had a dream of some day playing in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. I would love to have a family someday. But most importantly, I want to be a good person with good values.