Luke Bottari has only ever played football for schools in the city of San Mateo.
Since making his varsity debut at Serra as a sophomore in 2016 and setting the all-time career passing record in three seasons with the Padres, he has spent the past three years at College of San Mateo.
But the hometown theme for the hometown kid is about to change, as Bottari is on the verge of choosing his next school. The 20-year-old quarterback plans to attend classes at his yet-to-be-determined college as a transfer student at the outset of the spring semester. The closest to home of two preferred walk-on offers he has fielded is Cal, where classes begin Jan. 11.
“It’s going to be a bang-bang decision, for sure,” Bottari said. “All these schools want me when school starts this January. So, I’ll be heading out to school when it starts this January. So, that’s probably what’s going to happen.”
In addition to Cal, the University of Utah has also extended a preferred walk-on offer to Bottari. He has yet to receive an official scholarship offer, but has drawn official interest from three schools, including University of Montana, he said.
“I think wherever he chooses to go, the school that he goes to is getting a tremendous competitor, a leader, a winner, a guy who can make every throw,” CSM head coach Tim Tulloch said. “He has a wealth of experience at every level.”
CSM has already secured 18 transfers from the 2021 roster — including Skylar Thomas (Menlo-Atherton) to Oregon State; Tavita Tafuna (Menlo-Atherton) to University of Texas at El Paso; Noah Lavulo (Burlingame) to San Jose State; and Sione Moala (Capuchino) to Midland University-Nebraska — with more yet to be announced.
Of those 18, only two stand under 6-feet tall — defensive back Jarvis Martin (Howard-Georgia), who is committed to University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and kicker Atticus Sappington (Central Catholic-Oregon) committed to Oregon State — both who list at 5-11.
Bottari, who lists at 5-11, 195 pounds, is set to become the third. As Tulloch is quick to point out, though, there are few community college quarterbacks with the wealth of experience owned by the recent sophomore. In two seasons at CSM — 2019 and ’21, with no season during the pandemic year of 2020 — Bottari has started 25 games, totaling a 22-3 record.
“So, most places he goes to, he’s going to walk in as the most experienced guy,” Tulloch said. “Most guys who walk in aren’t going to have that many starts.”
Getting a spring start at a new school won’t be a new experience for Bottari. After his senior season at Serra in 2018 — when he set the Padres’ all-time passing record with 5,791 career yards — he submitted for early enrollment at CSM and started taking classes there in the spring of 2019 before graduating from Serra later that year.
On Dec. 17, Bottari took his last final exam at CSM. He said the finality of his time at CSM didn’t hit him until after taking the online test.
“I took the final online on that Friday and was like: ‘Just another final I just knocked out,’” Bottari said. “And then that next week I went up to CSM, I was like: ‘Huh. I don’t have any tests today.’ So … I think it hit me like the next week it was probably my last class at CSM.”
It has been a strange two years for all students at the three San Mateo County Community College District schools, most of whom were limited to remote learning during the pandemic. Bottari said he hasn’t attended an in-person academic class since prior to the March 2020 pandemic closures.
He has, however, spent plenty of time in on-campus classrooms for athletics related operations.
“Most of the team would come up to campus and do online classes from CSM,” Bottari said.
A San Mateo native, Bottari has only spent one year of his life playing outside of San Mateo at any level. That was his eighth-grade year, when he branched out to play Pop Warner football with the West Bay Rams in San Bruno in the regular fall season, and with the San Francisco Warriors in the spring.
Otherwise, Bottari has played all his ball, regardless of the sport, in San Mateo. And on the gridiron, he has only ever played quarterback, going back to his first season of Pop Warner in seventh-grade with the Bay City Bulldogs.
“I’ve been quarterbacking my whole life,” Bottari said. “I’ve never really wanted to play anywhere else.”
Bottari has made the most of remaining in his hometown, especially in 2021, by attending most of Serra’s football games during the Padres’ Central Coast Section championship and State Championship Bowl runner-up season. It helps him stay connected with the Serra “brotherhood” that he literally has a brother, Dante, a junior, who served as a reserve lineman for the Padres.
But Bottari embraces the extended family of the Serra “brotherhood” as well, and reveled in the chance to spend time with some of his old Padres teammates — including fellow 2019 graduate Atonio Mafi, now a lineman at UCLA — when he traveled to Mission Viejo to witness Serra’s historic first appearance in the CIF Open Division State Championship Bowl.
“Honestly … it felt like home,” Bottari said of the Dec. 11 pregame get-together. “It felt like I was going back home.”
Now, Bottari is on the verge of navigating the next chapter of his extraordinary football journey. And don’t be surprised if the soon-to-be junior transfer lands a job as an opening-day quarterback somewhere in September 2022.
“I think he has a great opportunity to do so,” Tulloch said. “A big key to that is being there in January and being there for spring ball. That has a big impact.”
CSM football transfers:
Skylar Thomas, CB (Menlo-Atherton) — Oregon State D’von Lang, CB (Valley Christian) — San Diego Jarvis Martin, CB (Georgia HS) — UNC-Charlotte Ryan Cooper Jr., CB (Wilcox) — Oregon State Noah Rodriguez, S (Milpitas) — Stony Brook Noah Lavulo, DE (Burlingame) — San Jose State Deaundre Cruz, LB (Guam HS) — Stony Brook Tavita Tafuna, DL (Menlo-Atherton) — UTEP Darius Long, DL (Encinal) — Cal Connor Sullivan, K/P (College Park) — Cal Zach Barnao, OL (Valley Christian) — Grambling State Richie Lankford, QB (Georgia HS) — Georgia Southern Anthony Landphere, TE (St. Francis) — Memphis Tre Hines, WR (Dublin) — Buffalo Mason Starling, WR (Washington HS) — Cal Sione Moala, OL (Capuchino) — Midland University JT Reed, OL (Valley Christian) — Montana State Atticus Sappington, K (Oregon HS) — Oregon State