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Center Junior Punt Returner Sebastian Larue from the Santa Monica High School boys Varsity football slips away from a tackle by Senior Robert Montelongo from the Channel Islands Boys Varsity football team as runs down the field after fielding a punt at Corsair Stadium located on the campus of Santa Monica College on Friday November 18th 2011 as SAMO hosted Channel in the first round of the Western Division playoffs and won 28-20 to move on to the second round. On Larue's left is Montelongo's teammate senior Vaughn DeVera. (photo by Morgan Genser)

SAMOHI — It looks like the University of Southern California got its man.

After a lengthy recruiting process that attracted some of the most storied football programs in the nation, Santa Monica High School standout wide receiver Sebastian LaRue decided to stay close to home and become a Trojan after his senior season.

“When USC offers and you’re from Southern California, you have to consider it,” LaRue said of his choice.

LaRue’s decision to eventually sign on to play for the Trojans is sure to disappoint fans stretching from Michigan to Oklahoma.

Recruited as both a defensive back and a wide receiver, LaRue said that USC’s willingness to allow him to play offense helped tilt the table. That and its illustrious past.

“I was pretty excited,” he said of the offer. “I think it’s a place I can have a lot of success.”

LaRue, who is on the ESPN top 150 recruit list, is the second Samohi player to decide to play at USC. He’ll join offensive lineman Chad Wheeler on campus for the start of the 2013-14 school year.

Wheeler is already enrolled, having graduated early from Samohi after the fall semester.

LaRue said that Wheeler’s experience in Trojan country helped him make up his mind.

“He’s somebody I look up to,” LaRue said of Wheeler. “He was a great person to talk to about the whole thing. He told me that USC was all about winning.”

For his part, Wheeler wasn’t holding punches when describing the atmosphere at USC.

“I told him that it’s all work, I wasn’t going to lie to him,” Wheeler said. “But, I also told him that I can see him succeeding here.”

Samohi Head Coach Travis Clark couldn’t agree more.

Having mentored LaRue this past season, Clark believes that the added pressure of living up to the USC standard will push him like never before.

“He’s going to have to work harder this year, from the classroom to the weight room,” Clark said. “This will bring the best out of Sebastian.”

Considering that LaRue just recently ended his junior year, his commitment comes early in the process. But, as Clark noted, USC is still under NCAA sanctions and only has 15 scholarships to offer LaRue’s class. Making a quick decision was key because, as Clark said, “they aren’t going to wait around. When USC comes calling, you have to listen.”

LaRue said that he didn’t make the decision to get his recruitment over with, but instead came to his choice after weighing his options, which included offers from Texas A&M, UCLA, Boise State and Arizona, among a raft of others.

Weighing heavily on LaRue’s mind was the invaluable connections he can gain by attending USC and what it offers off the field.

“The thing that it came down to was USC’s education,” LaRue said. “Nobody can offer that.”

But, before LaRue can suit up in the cardinal and gold, he has his senior year to consider.

LaRue helped lead Samohi to the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Western Division and a 11-2 record. In the process he amassed 55 receptions, 903 yards and 17 touchdowns last season for the Vikings.

Clark said that LaRue will be called on to lead the team, but he has a strong supporting cast.

Gone are a group of graduating seniors that included Boise State-bound Chris Collins and star running back Kori Garcia. The good news is the Vikings return most of its offensive line from last year’s successful squad.

Clark singled out Andres Meza and Pete Breceda as key components of next season’s success.

LaRue will also have a new quarterback throwing to him.

Senior Christian Salem, who will try to walk on at Northwestern University, graduates leaving a void at signal caller.

There’s a trio of players vying for the spot with returners Niko Basile and Jordan Detamore fighting it out with transfer Ryan Barbarin.

In spring practice, Clark liked Barbarin’s arm strength, but conceded that Basile and Detamore’s grasp of his system make them strong contenders.

Either way, whoever is throwing the ball will have LaRue to call on.

“His stats will be their stats,” Clark said. “Who doesn’t want a part of that.”

daniela@smdp.com

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