- Garry Paskwietz, Publisher, WeAreSC.com
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LOS ANGELES -- There were once three friends who grew up playing youth football in Corona, Calif., and dreamed of one day playing college football together for the USC Trojans.
This is not an abnormal kind of dream, as plenty of childhood friends across the country think similar thoughts of their favorite teams. It just so happened that those dreams became reality for Matt Kalil, Chris Galippo and D.J. Shoemate.
As they since have found out, however, reality can often provide some unexpected turns along the way.
What started with the Corona Chargers Youth All-American team carried into high school as the trio attended Servite High School in Anaheim -- a 30-mile trip each way -- to play football for the Friars.
"The fact that all three chose to commute to Servite is an example of the commitment they share," Servite head coach Troy Thomas said. "They did it in order to put themselves in the best position possible to be successful academically, spiritually and athletically."
Galippo -- who was a class ahead of Kalil and Shoemate -- was the leader of a Servite program that was experiencing a resurgence under a new head coach in Thomas. Galippo was an instinctive and tough linebacker who was named the MVP of the US Army All-American Bowl and ranked as the No. 2 player overall in the Class of 2007 ESPN 150 rankings.
Galippo was also the first of the three to make a commitment to the Trojans when he announced for USC in February 2006.
"It doesn't matter if I do it now or next year," Galippo said at the time. "USC is my dream school, and that's where I'm going to play."
Shoemate was next to commit as he gave a verbal two months later during his sophomore year. Shoemate had made a huge splash in the CIF-SS playoffs in his sophomore season as a defensive end who wreaked havoc on Long Beach Poly. He was also known as an explosive offensive weapon as a wide receiver, and it was no surprise that the Trojans extended the early offer, which he quickly accepted.
While Kalil might have been the final one of the three to commit to USC, there really wasn't much doubt about his eventual destination, not with his older brother Ryan having just finished up an All-American career as USC's center. Matt had all the tools to succeed as an offensive tackle, including learning from his older brother and his father, Frank, a former college and professional offensive lineman who was also the offensive line coach at Servite.
But just as the dream USC scenario had begun to unfold, injuries started to hit and the plans went in a different direction.
Shoemate was forced to miss his junior season at Servite with a broken foot. He was moved to running back his senior year and thrived in that spot but was moved back to receiver at USC. Shoemate was moved to fullback midway through his freshman year and injured his shoulder shortly after, an issue that would follow him throughout his career.
The move to fullback never really clicked for Shoemate, so when the NCAA sanctions allowed for upperclassmen USC players to transfer without sitting out a year, he took that opportunity to head to the University of Connecticut for a chance to play tailback.
Shoemate was unable to establish himself as a tailback for the Huskies in 2010 and another shoulder injury forced him to miss the 2011 season. After undergoing arthroscopic surgery on the shoulder earlier this month, it was announced that he would be ending his football career.
"I've known for a couple of weeks now -- maybe a month -- that my college career as a football player would come to an end," Shoemate told the Hartford Courant. "I have a lot of peace in knowing that I will be getting my degree this spring and walking in the ceremony in May."
Galippo experienced back problems during his first two seasons at USC and was forced to undergo a pair of surgeries. He returned and eventually started 28 games for the Trojans, although he was briefly moved to weakside linebacker at one point and lost his starting job at middle linebacker with four games left to go in his senior season.
It wasn't the finish to his career that Galippo had been hoping for, but he held his head high and walked out of USC with a degree in public policy, management and planning. Galippo -- who ran a 4.81 40-yard dash at USC's Pro Day -- is expected to be either a late-round draft selection or a free agent signee who will need to contribute on special teams if he hopes to make a team.
"I know I can play football," Galippo told ESPN The Magazine. "Am I ever going to run a 4.4? No. But I'm certainly not going to balloon to a five flat. I work harder than that."
Kalil didn't experience any costly injuries at USC, but he was on the sidelines for his first two years, first as a redshirt and then as a reserve right tackle in 2009. Once he was moved into the starting lineup at left tackle, he started every game for two years on his way to All-American honors. Kalil also joined his brother Ryan as a winner of the Morris Trophy, an award presented to the top lineman in the Pac-12 Conference. He is widely considered the top offensive lineman in the 2012 NFL draft and is expected to be a top-5 selection.
"I am so proud of the time I spent at USC," Kalil said. "It is a special place for me and my family, and I was honored to be a part of that tradition, but I also have a great opportunity in front of me."
Three childhood friends with a shared dream took three different paths to where they are today. One is done with football, one is facing longshot odds of continuing his playing career while the third is about to capitalize on the highest dream a football player can realize.
"All three of these guys set a solid example by what they have done," Thomas said, "Chris is a natural leader, and he will be successful in anything that he does in life. D.J. is a giver, and he has come back to Servite during the summer to help coach and mentor our young running backs. Matt is a great athlete, but he pays a price that many are not willing to pay in order to be great."
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