SportStars Magazine

Art Savage Award 2018: Joltin’ Joe Ngata

Folsom Junior Receiver Joe Ngata Left Every Football Scout Drooling In 2017 •

Joe Ngata

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an edited version of Steven Wilson’s SportStars Offensive Player of The Year story on Ngata from our February 2018 issue. (James K. Leash photos)

Joe Ngata wasn’t wasting any time.

Fresh off a 16-0 state championship season, Joe Ngata, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Folsom High School receiver was begging to get back in the gym.

“I’ve been back in the gym and back on the field for a little while now, and it’s just a matter of time before I am more explosive and even stronger,” Ngata said in a mid-January interview with SportStars. “I just take it day by day and stay humble.”

Ngata — the next big-time prospect coming out of Folsom following Jake Browning, Jonah Williams, Jordan Richards and Dano Graves — put together a phenomenal junior season in 2017.

He racked up 81 receptions for 1,777 yards and 26 touchdowns, adding 150 rushing yards, a score and 188 kick return yards en route to earning SportStars Offensive Player of the Year honors. He added another honor in May. SportStars along with the Sacramento River Cats named him the Art Savage Award winner. This honor is bestowed upon the region’s top male athlete for the current academic year.

“Joe was a massive part of our offense — especially once the season got rolling and we saw how much Joe had developed, even from last year — we knew we had to manufacture as many touches to Joe as possible,” Folsom coach Kris Richardson told SportStars in January.

“He’s got huge next-level potential”

After recording a touchdown catch in eight straight regular-season games, Ngata exploded for 679 yards and 11 scores in the playoffs.

In the Sac-Joaquin Section championship game, he had four touchdown catches in the first half against St. Mary’s-Stockton. He finished with 213 yards on eight receptions as his team claimed a 50-21 victory.

Joe Ngata breaks loose for a 49-yard TD reception during the first quarter of the CIF 1-AA State Bowl.

Joseph Ngata breaks loose for a 49-yard TD reception during the first quarter of the CIF 1-AA State Bowl.

Two weeks later, Ngata helped the Bulldogs bring home state bowl championship hardware with a hard-fought 49-42 win over Helix-La Mesa.

“Winning those championships didn’t come as a surprise to us,” Ngata confessed. “That’s what we expected to do.”

Collegiate offers came rushing in. The stellar 2017 season helped Ngata gain the attention of national powers Clemson, Florida, Michigan, Florida State, USC, Notre Dame, Oregon, Penn State, Utah, Washington, Cal, UCLA and Oregon State, among others.

“He’s got huge next-level potential,” Richardson said. “USC, Clemson, Florida, Utah, Oregon, every Pac-12 school, and notable national teams — and I said it early in the year, I thought Joe Ngata was the best receiver in the state of California, if not the western United States, as a junior.”

The longtime Bulldogs coach noted Ngata’s ability to play the ball in the air, use his size, and his speed, to create separation from defenders and block in the run game.

“His ceiling has scouts drooling with anticipation”

…and many booked trips from the East Coast routinely to see him compete.

Joe Ngata powers through a tackle during a 2017 meeting against visiting Jesuit-Carmichael.

Ngata powers through a tackle during a 2017 meeting against visiting Jesuit-Carmichael.

“I actually had some recruiting coaches come through, and Clemson was talking about him — how most guys are either fast, or big. But Joe is a big, fast guy,” Richardson said. “That’s rare. To be a 6-foot-4, 210-pound receiver and even though it doesn’t look like he’s moving that fast, he’s pulling away from everybody.”

Ngata’s 1,777 receiving yards are the most for a Folsom receiver since 2011 when J’Juan Muldrow had 1,895 in 14 games. Furthermore, his 81 receptions are tied for sixth in the program’s last decade.

With Joe Ngata already training for next season, Folsom fans are wondering how many records will remain standing when his career is complete.

“That’s the great thing about Joe. He’s not going to be satisfied with where he was at, or where we were as a team,” Richardson said. “He’s driven to be better than where we were in 2017. And with all those guys coming back, there’s no reason we can’t be (better).”

That’s scary news for opposing defenses.

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