De La Salle Junior Linebacker Has The Potential To Be Famed Program’s Next Great Export •
Henry To’oto’o began his varsity career at De La Salle High as a sophomore in 2016.
But it wasn’t particularly planned that way.
The linebacker, who was new to the school after moving from Sacramento, began that year on the junior varsity. Then some early-season injuries at the varsity level led to To’oto’o being asked to come up and help out.
“We immediately said to each other, ‘What’s this guy doing on JV?’” De La Salle defensive coordinator Terry Eidson recalled. “We told the JV coach, ‘You will never see him again,’ and he came back with, ‘Yeah, I kind of figured that.’”
A season and a half later, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound To’oto’o closed out his junior season as the Spartans’ leading tackler and has attracted a who’s who list of suitors from college programs throughout the country. He’s also earned the honor of being named SportStars NorCal Defensive Player of the Year.
“Some people are just kind of born to be linebackers, and I think he’s just one of those kind of kids,” Eidson said. “He’s got some real natural ability. Put that with the hard work and the love for the game and someone so studious, you’re going to have yourself quite a player.”
If To’oto’o, who is half-Samoan and half-Tongan, wasn’t specifically born to be a linebacker, it was the next closest thing.
“I knew I wanted to be a linebacker when I was really young,” To’oto’o said. “My dad always pushed me to consider the position because he was a linebacker. That was what he knew and he wanted to coach me up.”
To’oto’o said his dad earned one offer from San Diego State, but was unable to take it at the time. Henry won’t have such a problem.
A four-star recruit and ranked by ESPN as the 12th overall prospect in the country for the 2019 class, To’oto’o has offers from Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon, Washington and reigning national champion Alabama.
“He’s got a quick trigger,” Eidson said. “The first thing you look for in a linebacker is someone who can read and go. And he can read and go. He’s an excellent tackler, which is another thing you look for in a linebacker. And he doesn’t run around blocks. He’s not afraid to take on linemen.”
But what may possibly separate him in the eyes of scouts is his love for the game.
“He’s out there doing what we like to call the Henry Clap after making a play,” Eidson said smiling. “And it’s not disrespectful at all. He’s just excited to be out there and making plays. You love to have a defensive guy who’s excited to play the game.”
To’oto’o and the De La Salle defense held opponents to seven points or less in seven of their 13 contests. The Spartans, who finished No. 1 in SportStars’ final NorCal Top 20 rankings for 2017, lost a road game to Bishop Gorman-Las Vegas on Sept. 16 before winning eight straight and capturing the program’s 26th consecutive North Coast Section title.
De La Salle then represented Northern California in the CIF Open Division Bowl Championship, where it lost to eventual mythical national champion Mater Dei-Santa Ana 52-21.
“We had a lot of young talent,” To’oto’o said of the 2017 defense. “I’m really looking forward to being with everybody again. And redeeming myself at state.”
That should be a quest worth watching.
Story And Photos By CHACE BRYSON