Silly U Earns Best of the West 7 Berth by Lorenzo Reyna
No offers, no letters, no mercy. And it all comes from a team inspired by The Tortoise and the Hare.
The three no’s defined the biggest surprise of Passing Down’s Northern California Elite 7-on7 Regional last Sunday at Chabot College, as Silly U Orange made a mockery of the teams that tried to disparage their name and the highly-recruited players who thought the unknown squad would become easy pickings at the prestigious tournament.
The orange and green unit scored at will, rose up against the more heralded recruits and lastly, provided the chant of the day as coaches, players and parents proudly bellowed “Silly UUUU!” in unison during competition. Silly U Orange grinded out five victories in six games against a stacked field that featured Bay Area, Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley talent.
Now, the team with only one player holding a scholarship offer and several others hoping for their first letter is Best of the West bound in April after placing in the top four of the tournament.
Anyone who wears the loud colors or the Silly Rabbit clothing line that was created by club team founder Damon Cole Sr. takes pride in the Silly U name, plus its backstory.
“My kids play with a chip on their shoulder. Check them out. They're some of the best in their leagues,” Cole Sr. said. “They just don't get the exposure like others. We're just trying to prepare them for life and make them better young men by going to school, see something different and get that degree; basically putting them in a better situation to succeed. We're just showing people what kids can do with the right support system.” The team draws their inspiration and name from a popular children’s story.
BEING THE TORTOISE
A bestselling book from Aesop’s Fables is The Tortoise and the Hare, which describes how a slow moving turtle won his race against a fast and arrogant rabbit.
Not only did Cole Sr. use the story as his influence for his clothing line, but as a motivational tactic for his team of “tortoises.”
“Hare had all the talent. Everything given to him. And the tortoise was the underdog,” Cole Sr. said. “Because it didn’t appear to match up the same, everybody slept on the tortoise because he looked different. The rabbit, though, was silly and backwards. Same with Silly U. The colleges are backwards with counting these kids out. They'll see. We're proving it in every tournament. Just watch.
“We're running our race and working hard while watching all these offers go by,” Cole Sr. continued. “But we’re staying focus while every team and recruiters sleep on us. It's our race. We’re going to win in the end. And everybody has bought into it.”
Vacaville wide receiver Jon Donaldson is one Silly U player who’s energized by the story. The big 6-foot-2, 210-pound target made his living in the end zone at Passing Down by averaging over two touchdowns a game and defeating cornerbacks inside the red zone.
“The tortoise is much like us: Definitely the underdog, the one everybody counted out,” Donaldson said. “The tortoise just ran his race and kept grinding, while the hare decided to take a nap and not grind and expected these offers to come based off of raw talent.”
In a region known for pumping out PAC-12, Big 10 and Atlantic Coast Conference talent, Donaldson is one of Northern California’s sleeper prospects as he holds no scholarship pledges. He calls his club team “the hungriest team in Northern California.”
“We work hard every time we touch the field because we are the underdogs,” Donaldson said. “We go against teams that are putting up 30 some offers. We want to make names for ourselves and our coaches have made sure that if we keep it up, these colleges will come.”
El Cerrito wide receiver Damon Cole Jr. is the only Silly U prospect with offers. Utah State, Wyoming and Sacramento State have currently extended a pledge to him. But even with three offers, he approaches the field like he’s still chasing for scholarship offer No. 1 and gets psyched when people ridicule his club team’s name.
“I think people don’t really like the name. They say it’s a weak name for a 7-on-7 team,” Cole Jr. said. “But I feel like we’re out here showing people we’re the best team.”
San Francisco-Archbishop Riordan High running back Josh Boone is another one who feels overlooked but driven by derision. “It makes us hungry. Teams tend to come in with way more swagger and a lot of them have way more letters or offers. They come into tournaments and think that it’s just fun for them,” Boone said. “With us, it is fun, but we’re all grinding at the same time. We’re trying to reach a goal for all of us.”
Cole Jr.’s high school teammate and quarterback Devoreah Allen was the one dropping bombs and firing on all cylinders for the Silly U offense. The undersized 5-foot-8 signal caller isn’t ashamed to put on his club team’s colors.
“I am very proud to wear a Silly U Jersey,” Allen said. “It makes me feel great to be a part of the first Silly U team ever and it makes me feel more proud to be a part of a great organization.” Allen said that being with Silly U not only molds him as a player, but steers him and his teammates away from the dark spots that have plagued the Bay.
STAYING AWAY FROM CRIME BY GOING ‘SILLY’
Allen doesn’t just go to Silly U practices to refine his X’s and O’s. He goes there to ensure he doesn’t join this statistic: young Bay Area kids who get killed or locked away, especially in a city known for its high violent crime rate.
“Silly U keeps the player out of trouble and keeps us doing better things than being a gangster and trying to rob and kill people,” Allen said. “Our coaches talk to us all the time about staying in school, working hard to make our dreams come true and having a successful lifestyle.”
Cole Sr. coaches players from all over the Bay as his team comprises of Richmond, San Francisco, Vallejo, Vacaville and Oakland talent.
“Kids from these cities, at their age, are getting killed left and right. So to get them to come together, perform in class and perform on the field is special,” Cole Sr. said. “Some have a good home structure. And some deal with struggle, including program changes at their schools. But that doesn't mean the kids don't have a gift. The academics and athleticism is all on paper. They're ready to go DI, D2, D3 and HBC.”
Boone lives in a two-parent household and what he described as a good place in S.F. He too uses Silly U as an outlet to stay away from death or jail time.“Some of us don’t come from good areas and we’re just trying to make it out and make it big,” Boone said. “We all have everything against us.”
COMPLETING ‘THE RACE’
Silly U may not have won the NorCal regional as Team SWAG Factory ended their run. But that doesn’t mean the club squad will be taken lightly come April 24 in Orange County as they now seek to claim the Best of the West title.
As it is, count on Boone to use the Aesop’s Fables story as his method of inspiration along with the rest of his teammates.“It’s a backdrop on how to never give up in life. You can be the smallest and slowest, but you should never give up because you can beat those teams that think they have all that,” Boone said. Cole Sr. will remind teams of his kids’ endurance.
“I was really proud of my guys. Not because of how deep we went in the tournament, but how they performed over the time frame,” Cole Sr. said. “Long day and even three games in a row is tough, especially going both ways. But hey they can play. It's all about heart.”
He also has one final message for the next team that dares to laugh at his team’s name:
“No offers, no letters, we aren’t backing down from nobody.”