Apaches standout will fulfill boyhood dream of playing football at UCLA
By Miguel A. Melendez
ARCADIA – The piece that held the Arcadia High School football team together will no longer suit up on Friday night.
Todd Golper is on to fulfill his boyhood dream of playing football at UCLA.
His smart play-calling will be sorely missed by the Apaches. His laid-back style won’t be around to keep the masses calm when chaos seems forthcoming.
His bruising tackles, lights-out style of attack, high football IQ and speed will leave a huge gaping hole that will be tough to fill in the Arcadia football program.
Golper doesn’t just represent the program. He is the program.
That much he never could have imagined as the ball boy for the Apaches while in the sixth grade, walking the Arcadia sidelines wearing an oversized jersey and watching his brother, Brian, play.
It was from his brothers whom Golper learned the true definition of playing tough.
“Whatever they did I wanted to do it better,” Golper said. “I saw my brother play with two broken wrists and I thought, `Man, I can’t not play because of a little injury.’ ”
Golper, however, may be in need of a dictionary.
By his definition, a “little injury” is playing with a broken toe. Add a possible broken left ankle and you’ve got Golper’s “little injury.”
He broke his toe in Week 1 against St. Francis and sat out two weeks. Golper returned to lead the Apaches to two consecutive wins despite the injuries.
Last week, it had appeared as if Golper had torn his right ACL on an injury that occurred two minutes into the second quarter of the game against Burbank; his future flashing right before his eyes.
“I was in shock,” Golper said. “I was wondering about my scholarship, if I would ever play again, was it career-ending, was my season over, would we make the playoffs.”
Fortunately, Golper received news Wednesday that it wasn’t a torn ACL, and instead of looking at eight to 12 months of recovery, he’d only need two months of solid recovery and four months of rehab, just in time to report to UCLA’s training camp in June. He is expected to sign a national letter of intent in February.
Arcadia plays its final home game of the regular season against Crescenta Valley on Friday. The Apaches can still make the playoffs if things play in their favor.
Regardless, the sweat, blood and tears spent on the field is something Golper will never forget.
It was Arcadia coach Jon Dimalante who lit a fire under Golper after benching him during a game his sophomore year.
“That was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Golper said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better coach.”
The feeling is mutual.
“I’ve been coaching 23 years and he’s really something special,” Dimalante said.
His well-admired demeanor isn’t limited to just football.
“He’s respectful, smart, loyal, tough and a high achiever in everything he does,” Dimalante said. “He’s the perfect son.”
Playing and excelling in sports runs in the family.
Golper’s mother, Leslie, has earned medals running in marathons. He grew up watching his brothers play football at Georgetown and soccer at Redlands. Golper’s father, John, is a lawyer and graduated from UCLA law school. Golper’s brother, Brian, currently attends law school at UCLA.
To say the Golpers bleed blue and gold would be an understatement.
Walk anywhere in the Golper’s two-story home and there’s not a wall, bookcase and even parts of the floor not adorned with blue and gold.
Golper grew up watching UCLA play at the Rose Bowl, which made for a not-so-vigorous recruiting process.
Stanford came calling for the recruit, but there was never a doubt: UCLA was his first love.
The road to Westwood seemed long and tumultuous at times.
But now that he’s arrived, Golper is ready to hit the snooze button.
His dream is now a reality.
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