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Turlock High QB standout signs with SMSU
Danny Velasquez
Former Turlock High and MJC quarterback Danny Velasquez received a full-ride scholarship to play football at Southwest Minnesota State University (Journal file photo).

Former Turlock High School quarterback Danny Velasquez will continue his college football career at Southwest Minnesota State University on a full-ride scholarship after inking his letter of intent to play for the Mustangs.

The move to join SMSU takes Velasquez off the roster at Fresno State and is the latest development in a college career that has seen him shuffle to and from several teams since graduating high school in 2016.

“The biggest thing that caught my attention is they run a simple offense similar to MJC’s,” Velasquez said. “I’m really excited to get to work on that offense.”

After earning back-to-back Central California Conference MVP awards and helping Turlock High win its first league title in nine years, Velasquez suited up for Modesto Junior College as a true freshman in 2017 and recorded a combined 2,770 yards and 29 touchdowns en route to a Gridiron Bowl win. His success on the field prompted interest from Division I programs and Velasquez accepted a full-ride offer to play at Portland State University. He appeared in only two games before his sophomore season was cut short due to injury, prompting a return to MJC in 2019.

The Turlock High alum racked up a combined 3,493 yards and 34 touchdowns during his second stint as a Pirate and was prominently featured in an episode of the Netflix original series “Last Chance U” in which he recorded a combined 279 yards and four touchdowns in a 33-20 win over Laney College.

The televised performance garnered the attention of the Fresno Bulldogs, which offered the Turlocker a spot on their roster and a chance to fight for the quarterback position. Velasquez was set to once again chase his dream of playing D1 football before the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to athletic activities in the spring.

With no sign of athletics resuming in California and with another full-ride offer on the table, Velasquez felt SMSU’s offer was too good to pass up despite its DII status.

“It was kind of a tough decision for me,” Velasquez said. “I left Fresno because of the whole COVID thing. I just felt like my opportunity was gone and I got a lot of interest from other schools after that ‘Last Chance U’ episode came out.”

“I think, for me, growing up it was always a D1 or bust mentality. I think it got me to a point where I was competing at a high level, but I think I also missed out on a lot of good opportunities over the years,” he added.

Velasquez will share the locker room with two other local talents in John Romero of Johansen High School and former MJC teammate Kendrick Bond of Patterson High School as he attempts to lead the Mustangs to their first winning season since 2015.

“All three of us are excited about the whole thing. We’re trying to get some more people from around here to go, but we’ll see,” Velasquez said.

In addition to football, Velasquez will also continue to pursue a degree in Communication Studies.

“The biggest thing is just getting my degree. I never thought I was going to make it this far anyway, I always thought I’d end up on a farm,” Velasquez said with a laugh.

“The coaches have been saying they want us there for early January but we’re waiting to see what the governor has to say with this whole lockdown. I’m ready to get out of here and go play.”