Jamar Sekona squeezed the metal pool railing, holding his breath as he fought to keep himself under the surface. In a pool atop the Grand Hyatt San Antonio earlier this month, the Marin Catholic defensive lineman was getting ready for the All-American Combine, and he had started to pray.
It was his second trip to the event — formerly the US Army All-American Combine — that brought together some of the best of the best high school football players in the nation. From the pool deck, he could see where he’d be competing the next day: The Alamodome. He plunged himself under the water three times, and each time, he thanked God.
“I was holding my breath, the longest I held it for was 45 to 50 seconds, and I finally get out of the pool, and this weight is just lifted off my shoulders,” Sekona said.
Sekona, the Examiner’s All-City Defensive Player of the Year, only started playing football as a freshman at Mt. Tamalpais High School. After living in six different states, after never spending more than a year at the same school and after living in a motel for three months, Sekona has found a home at Marin Catholic, and turned into one of the region’s most impressive — and dependable — prospects.
“Jamar played just about every snap in the postseason on both sides of the ball,” said head coach Mazi Moayed. “His presence and impact had us literally one play from winning the NCS title.”
With a paucity of size headed into this season, Moayed asked Sekona — who had never played offensive line — if he could play both ways. Mt. Tam coaches had wanted the same thing from Sekona as a freshman, but starting on varsity in his first year playing football was already a heady task, so the experiment was abandoned quickly. He was up for the challenge this year.
With his only breaks coming on kickoffs, Sekona took to the challenge with verve, and became so adept and so well-conditioned that he not only knew what his opponents were going to do before they did it, but was able to counter it. He was so effective that he’s earned our first-team All-City defensive line honors, and second-team honors for his work at both offensive guard spots.
Just this week, Nevada and Oregon have come in with offers, following the likes of Cal, USC, Arizona, Oregon State and Arizona State.
The season after his first trip to San Antonio, Sekona racked up 102 tackles for the Wildcats, including 21 tackles for loss and 10 sacks, along with 19 quarterback pressures. He was voted the team’s top lineman by his teammates — the accomplishment he takes most pride in.
“Equal to his impressive numbers are his character and genuine warmth,” said coach Philip Rice.
Interviewed at Marin Catholic on Tuesday, Sekona beamed when talking about the lineman of the year award, but even more so when talking about how he brought members of the football and soccer teams down to Novato this past summer to help him coach underprivileged youngsters for a month at Red Zone sports camp.
“I got to hear some of their stories, relate to them,” Sekona said. “Some of the kids grew up in the same type of environment, and it was really important to me that they had fun.”
Sekona stands more upright now than he did after his sophomore season — his first after transferring from Mt. Tam, when his living situation was finally stable enough for him to attend Marin Catholic. Back then, he was unsure and shy off the field. The youngest of seven children, he was just trying to get used to the attention.
“I was still in that awkward stage of being new, meeting new people, new teachers, new coaches and all that,” said Sekona, who had gone to 13 different schools before settling in with the Wildcats. “The moment I hear it’s time to pack up and leave, I’m ready. That’s pretty much what I was used to.”
Born in Long Beach, Sekona and his family lived in Crenshaw, Compton and Inglewood before his mother, Margaret, took five-year old Jamar and her youngest daughter and went chasing hospice care jobs wherever she could find them.
Margaret, born in Tonga, was adopted and raised by her aunt, and had grown up with one of her first cousins, Melissa. After Melissa passed away suddenly at age 32, leaving a hospice care job in Mill Valley unattended, the client asked if Margaret would take her place. After moving from Utah, the family —including Jamar and his older sister Tina — lived in the elderly client’s home, but when she took ill, they moved into a motel, then an in-law unit set up by St. Vincent’s. Finally, with Margaret working two full-time jobs, they moved into an apartment in Fairfax, where they’ve lived for two years.
Off the field, Sekona has grown into an outgoing, affable leader. On the football field, Sekona has never felt more comfortable than he has the last three months.
When Sekona arrived at the Alamodome two weeks ago, the morning after his prayerful dip, he began stretching along the sidelines. The year before, he’d been in awe and shocked at the level of talent, but still managed to toss his first one-on-one opponent back five yards. That earned him national attention and kickstarted his recruitment. This year, he was calm and confident.
“Coming into the camp, seeing some big guys from Florida and Georgia, I’m just looking at them like, ‘Oh, I’m ready for you,’” Sekona said. “I’m just getting excited.”
Sekona was named one of the top performers at the combine, earning Honorable Mention from 247Sports and participating in the top-five one-on-ones. Moayed said he will be the highest-rated prospect to ever come out of the Wildcats program, and that includes Los Angeles Rams quarterback and former No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick Jared Goff.
“Just looking at myself,” Sekona said, “I think I was ready. I just felt ready.”
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