South Fork multi-sport athlete Levi Paine may have graduated this past June, but he will still be a Bear Cub as he will be kicking for the Santa Rosa Junior College Bear Cubs football team this fall. Paine is the son of Gina and Kelly Paine of Garberville.
Paine, who was named to the Humboldt Del Norte Conference’s first team his senior year, had a spur-of-the-moment meeting with SRJC head coach Lenny Wagner in June while in Santa Rosa to apartment hunt. Wagner was impressed enough by Paine’s stats to invite him onto the team on the spot.
"He’s a relaxed and down to earth guy," said Paine of his new coach. "He’s very easy to talk to and he’s even going to let me miss practice so I can come to South Fork’s homecoming."
Paine kicked for two seasons for South Fork and it was during his junior year that he began to realize he had a special talent for the job. "It just came easily to me, and when I watched college and pro games I realized I was not that far from that skill level."
Paine’s longest punt in high school competition was 49 yards and he twice hit field goals from 49 yards in games. In practice he consistently splits the uprights from 50 yards and his record in practice is an astonishing 64 yards. It’s no wonder the coach of a winning program like Santa Rosa’s was happy to see him walk into his office last June.
Paine will be studying kinesiology at SRJC; that was decided before he ever considered going out for the team.
Paine was an impressive presence in five different sports at South Fork, winning all-county honorable mention and rookie of the year in soccer his freshman year, honorable mention in soccer and most improved in basketball his sophomore year, honorable mention in football his junior year and all-county in football plus honorable mention in basketball and baseball his senior year. He was known at South Fork for his tireless hustle, dedication and leadership on all of his teams.
Practice for SRJC started Aug. 1 and for the first three weeks the team will work out twice a day. When classes start players will get a lot of support in managing their time to keep up the required 2.5 GPA. Paine was a solid academic performer at South Fork and expects to have no problem with grades at the next level.
SRJC plays in the Nor Cal Junior College Conference along with De Anza, Butte, Foothill, San Mateo, and San Francisco City. SRJC finished second in the league last year and for the past ten years the conference champion has gone on to compete in either the state or national finals. The team website boasts a dozen recent players who have signed with Division 1 programs after beginning their careers at Santa Rosa.
How will a kid from tiny South Fork fit in? "I’m really excited, maybe a little nervous," said Paine. His talent will speak for itself.
Local fans will have a chance to see Paine in his first non-conference game against Mendocino College in Ukiah on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 1 p.m.
PHOTO COURTESY OF GINA PAINE
Levi Paine is shown here kicking a field goal at Calistoga during his 2011 season at South Fork High School in Miranda.