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Future Oregon Ducks' receiver Dillon Gresham is cautionary 'real deal' at San Jacinto
By John Murphy,
SAN JACINTO, CALIFORNIA — The San Jacinto High football team practices under a blue, cloud-less sky, with the North Mountain as a backdrop.
Tiger players point the way to star receiver Dillon Gresham but there’s no need.
Gresham is the sturdy 6-foot-1, 180-pound receiver on the sideline. You know, the one with the orange half-jersey over gray T-shirt; gold Oregon Duck receiving gloves; black, green, and pink Nike cleats, and dreadlocks.
And don’t forget the CAUTION decal on his back plate – sage advice for defenses about a guy who caught 90 passes last season for a school record-breaking 2,051 yards and 31 touchdowns.
But for all the Oregon commit’s confidence and four-star talent, he’s just an L.A. kid with swag and a heart of gold, dropped into a sleepy, one-school town.
“He’s the real deal,” Tiger football operations whiz Corey Schouten said. “The thing that impresses me is the way he helps younger players. He’ll stop and help a kid get lined up right. That goes a long way in my eyes.”
Veteran San Jacinto coach Aric Galliano patrols the Tiger turf with purpose.
“All right, ‘Rain 959,” he yells. “Everybody go to the left.”
“Money!” he shouts when the play clicks. “OK, right hash.”
Many of the plays involve Gresham, the big-time receiver who is part of Oregon’s recent gold-rush haul of Southern California prep pass-catchers. Newport Harbor’s Jordan Anderson and Mater Dei of Santa Ana’s Jack Ressler are other future Ducks.
Asked what impresses him about Gresham, Galliano says, “Competitor. He has top-end speed, and he gets there by his fourth or fifth step. He’s able to create space and I’ve never had that before.”
Two weeks ago Gresham had four drops in a 21-16 win against Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley. But he also caught eight passes for more than 100 yards and a touchdown.
“That’s someone’s career game,” Galliano said. “So he’s super hard on himself and he’s always trying to do what’s best for the team.”
But Gresham is no shrinking violet. He proved that the spring before his monster 2022 season. It was during a 7-on-7 game with state powerhouse Corona Centennial.
“They test him on the first play of the game,” Galliano said. “He’s playing cornerback and he intercepts a pass, and he throws the ball away and says, ‘I’m not average!’”
Not done, Gresham switched to offense and Galliano ordered a deep pass.
“He catches it and he throws the ball away again and says, ‘I TOLD YOU I’M NOT AVERAGE!’” Galliano said. “That became our thing for a while.”
Gresham laughed at the memory.
“Centennial had Malachi Riley and he was a big name before he went to Arizona,” he said. “They threw a few fade balls to Malachi and I kept picking them off so I said, ‘I’m not average. Don’t treat me like I’m average.”
Try special. Blessed with sprinter’s speed (4.39 in the 40) and the strength to shrug off defenders, Gresham is coveted by colleges. He chose Oregon from a reported 14 offers, committing to the Ducks in May. He's ranked the No. 19 senior recruit in California, by 247Sports.
But it’s Gresham’s off-field qualities that impress Galliano, a father of four, including triplets.
“He’s a great football player and a great person,” Galliano said. “He comes to my house and goes swimming with my boys. He and my son Sawyer have their secret little handshake and they play video games together. It’s pretty cool.”
The Gresham family is originally from Los Angeles — most recently from Paramount. The player’s mother, Cher Wiley-Gresham, is a pharmacy technician in Lynwood and his father, Dion Gresham, drives a tow truck for the Los Angeles Police Department. He has two siblings — brother Dion Jr. (30) and sister Delana (15).
The Tigers and Galliano can thank a realtor for the Greshams' arrival in San Jacinto.
“Dillon was younger, and we wanted to move somewhere better and more affordable,” the player’s mom said. “Originally, we were going to move to Menifee because I have an aunt and uncle who live there. But we were driving around, and the realtor told us about San Jacinto. We had never heard of it, but we drove down there, and we liked it.”
Fortuitous for the Tigers as Gresham went off last season. Following a sterling regular season, he caught 10 touchdown passes and had 743 receiving yards in four section D6 games, including the Tigers’ 42-15 title win against Orange.
San Jacinto won league, section, and regional titles before falling to Grant of Sacramento 34-32 in the CIF-State playoff bowl title game. Gresham scored four touchdowns in that game, including an 83-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Gresham (411 receiving yards, five touchdowns) and the Tigers host Citrus Hill of Perris at 7 p.m. Friday. It is the Tigers’ homecoming game. The “S” (for San Jacinto) on North Mountain will be lit to celebrate the event.
Asked for a career highlight, Gresham said, “Ohhhhh, that would probably be CIF. To be part of the class to win the first CIF championship at a school that’s been open for a century, it was a good feeling for all of us.”
John Murphy is the sports editor for Century Group Media of Southern California. Follow him at @PrepDawg2.