By Ray Hamill — Team culture has always been an important element for Isaak Gutierrez and his teammates, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.
It’s one of the things he says he’ll remember most from his days playing football at Eureka High, and it’s one of the things he says attracted him to Butte College, where he will play in the fall.
And he’s not alone.
Teammates John Foster and Tyce Mullins are each taking their talents to Butte as well, and each is doing so for the same reasons.
“It’s a fantastic program,” Gutierrez said of Butte. “They’ve got a lot of the same culture we had at Eureka High. They put in a lot of hard work, and they put the team first.”
Foster agreed with the sentiment.
“Honestly it’s a program that’s very, very similar to ours,” he said. “Those guys are working out constantly, running constantly, always staying busy.”
All three Eureka graduates officially signed their letters of commitment to play for the Roadrunners during graduation ceremonies recently, joining one of the top community college programs in the nation.
The Roadrunners are two-time national champions and known for producing top collegiate and even NFL players, including some of the greatest ever at their position, players like Larry Allen and Aaron Rodgers.
“They’re a really great team,” Mullins said. “One of the best JCs in California for years, and they send a lot of good players on to the next level.”
And that’s another reason the Eureka trio are looking forward to the opportunity and eager to continue their playing careers as long as they can.
“You get a lot of exposure over there. Both of their tackles have got 10-plus D-I offers,” Gutierrez said. “They were the third best Juco in the state last year. They’ve got a really good team right now.”
All three teammates have been playing together for years, with Gutierrez and Mullins lining out side by side since they began youth football a decade ago.
Foster joined the group in the eighth grade and has been playing right alongside Gutierrez on the offensive line since.
And they’ve enjoyed plenty of success together, paving the way for back-to-back undefeated regular seasons for the Loggers the past two years.
“When we play together, we’re usually not going to lose that battle,” Foster said with a chuckle. “We’re pretty good together.”
They’ll need to be at Butte, where the competition for starting places will be extremely tough.
Including another close friend of the group, Fortuna standout lineman Sheaden Kadle, who has also committed to play for the Roadrunners.
The Butte offensive line features a pair of returning tackles, who, in Foster’s words, are “D-I animals,” but the H-DNL trio could conceivably start together in the interior line.
“They cross train you,” Foster said. “But I’ll be trying to play guard and Isaak wants to be the center.”
Foster is glad to be taking this next step with his close friends.
“Going off to college you don’t always get to do it with people you know, so I’m pretty lucky to go there with a group of my close friends,” he said.
Mullins, who has played alongside Gutierrez and Foster at tight end throughout his career, will now switch exclusively to linebacker, where he really excelled in high school.
“There’s going to be a lot of competition,” he said.
The trio will also be living together when they make the move.
And they’re also looking forward to playing with Kadle again, after lining out on the same team as the Fortuna star for one year in youth football.
“He’s also one of my closest friends,” Gutierrez.
“We’ve all been friends since eighth grade,” Foster added.
Lots of memories
All three Eureka grads are looking forward to the opportunity, but all three say they’ll carry a lot of good memories from their high school playing days with them.
In particular the camaraderie and close team bond they developed.
“I’ll just remember all the time we were together,” said Gutierrez, who wants to major in criminal justice. “All the grinding together, working for your teammates and not just yourself.”
As for the biggest influences in their careers, all three say family and coaches have been instrumental in getting them to the next level.
“I’ve got to say my family, and also coach (Garett) Montana and coach (Jason) White (at Eureka),” Gutierrez said. “They just helped me through everything.”
Foster, a cooking enthusiast who wants to major in business and own his own restaurant some day, echoed the sentiment.
“I have a lot of support from my family,” he said. “And coach Montana, he’s just a person you can go to with anything and somehow he has an answer that sounds right.”
In their wake, the three high school stars leave a legacy that will be difficult to top, and a program that won’t easily forget what they brought to the table, both on and off the field.
“I just hope all the younger kids see what we were trying to create,” Foster said. “The only way to have a good football team is hard work.”