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February 2, 2012
Former Marine ready to go at SDSU
SIGNING DAY: COMPLETE RIVALS COVERAGE
San Diego State doesn't know if incoming recruit Justin Aysse will win a job on the offensive line.
But it can be sure whenever the 6-foot-5, 285-pounder takes the field, he will never be overwhelmed by the moment. Or be intimidated by his opponent.
That's what happens when you add a former United States Marine to your football team.
"I've been to Iraq and I've been to Afghanistan on both combat deployments," Aysse said. "Unless I'm going up against Dwight Freeney or Michael Strahan, I'm not really worried about who I'm going up against. Everybody can be beat."
Of all the signees Wednesday during National Signing Day, Aysse's may have been the most unusual.
Some were junior-college transfers, as he was. But few were 25 years old.
Not that Aysse didn't share something with the rest of the thousands of signees across the country. He once was a high school hot shot with the talent to play Division I football.
He just never had the discipline.
Four years in the Marine Corps took care of that.
As a high schooler at Los Angeles (Calif.) Downey, Aysse was a two-way starter (tight end and defensive end) who was good enough to get looks from Division I schools such as Oregon, Washington, USC and even San Diego State.
His grades, however, were so poor that he had no hope of qualifying. So he dropped out of school, joined the Marines, and left the dream of playing Division I football for dead.
"At that time in my life, I didn't think I was ever going to play football again," he said. "And I was heartbroken."
When Aysse finished his service, football and education came calling again.
He enrolled at Long Beach City College, and after finding a niche on the offensive line there, schools came calling again as well.
First there was Texas State, then Hampton, then Utah offered, and then a whole slew of others followed - 18 to be exact. Earlier this month, Aysse narrowed it down to Texas State, Hampton and Eastern Kentucky, and he was on his way to choosing one of those programs.
"But then San Diego State came out of the blue," Aysse said.
Receivers coach LeCharls McDaniel spoke with him and set up an official visit for him this past weekend.
"It's a pretty cool school and you can't beat the year-round weather," Aysse said. "I spent a little time in San Diego when I was training to become a Marine, so I'm familiar with the weather. It's also a veteran-friendly school and I think I can draw a lot of Marine Corps and naval support as far as the fan base goes just from being out there and being a former Marine myself.
"They've also got an outstanding criminal justice program and that's what I'm looking forward to as far as my major."
When Aysse realized San Diego State was the school for him, he pulled some of the coaches aside on Saturday night, and shot it to them straight.
"I said, 'Coach, I don't want to be blunt or insensitive, but what's the deal with an offer?'" Aysse said. "'Are you guys offering a full scholarship or are you considering? Where do you stand?'"
So much for respecting the chain of command.
The next day, as he was checking out and getting set to go back home to Long Beach, head coach Rocky Long pulled him aside and gave him the answer he was looking for.
"He said, 'Here you go,'" Aysse said, recalling Long handing him an envelope. "I opened it up and it was a full-ride scholarship. I was like, 'I'm taking it.'"
Aysse committed on the spot.
With only two tackles who played the position last season set to return this year, Garrett Corbett and Paul Rodriguez, and only one other veteran player in the mix at the moment for a tackle spot, converted tight end Bryce Quigley, Aysse will have a good chance to see the field in his first season with the Aztecs.
Looking at it now, after all he's been through, that's everything he ever wanted and more.
"I'm being blessed to get a second opportunity, go to a D-I school and continue to play ball," he said. "I'm going to play until the wheels fall off."