The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.

When I first started covering the College of San Mateo football program back in the fall of 2001, it was similar to the program I had recently stopped covering, Chabot College in Hayward. In many ways, the two schools were very similar: strong, solid programs but without a lot fanfare.

Fast forward just more than a decade and CSM is now a junior college powerhouse and it’s paying off as far as moving players on to the four-year level. While the stated goal of the CSM staff is to move their players on to four-year universities to eventually earn their college degrees, the football programs they were attracting were not necessarily household names. In the early 2000s, CSM was happy to have kids moving on to play at much smaller, less prestigious schools like Humboldt State, Eastern Washington or North Carolina A&T, with an occasional player signing with a Division I school.

Now, however, a who’s who of college football coaches now beat a path to the CSM facilities. Recruiters from a lot of major Division I college programs are now regularly corresponding with CSM staff and players and Bulldog Nation is scattering across the country. Oregon, USC, Nebraska, Kansas State, BYU, Texas Tech, LSU and Washington State are just a few of the schools that have the phone numbers of CSM coaches in their contact lists.

Take linebacker Sione Sina, a sophomore from Monterey Trail High in Elk Grove — who was coached by former CSM and San Mateo High coach T.J. Ewing. Sina had offers from 12 Division I universities, including nearly every Pac 12 school, BYU, Pitt, Texas A&M and Texas Tech. Sina ended up signing with Cal.

The transition to the upper echelon of college programs didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a consistent buildup over the year and coincides with the rise of the program. Back in 2001, the Bulldogs were playing in the Coast Conference. Now, they are a fixture in the Nor Cal Conference, arguably one of the toughest conferences in the country. Competing against a program like City College of San Francisco — which has a long history of players playing at the highest levels of college football — proves CSM has what it takes to send players to the best programs in the United States.