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Halpin returns to roots, signs with San Diego

North Medford High's Ken Halpin grew up swatting baseballs and catching footballs in the northern San Diego County town of Escondido.

Halpin, 18, and his family left California for Texas when he was 8, and the family moved again to Medford when he was 10.

Suddenly, Halpin has realized a dream by getting the chance to go home to San Diego to play football and baseball for the University of San Diego. Earlier this week, he signed letters of intent to play both sports for USD.

The baseball team competes at the NCAA Division I level in the West Coast Conference. The football team is a member of the NCAA Division I-AA Pioneer League.

It's kind of neat to be going back to San Diego, says Halpin, an honorable mention all-state fullback for North Medford's football team as a senior last fall. When I made my visit to to San Diego, I went to Escondido to see my old house. I had some good memories there.

Halpin was recruited by San Diego assistant football coach Kelly Jeffrey, a former Southern Oregon University quarterback. Another former SOU quarterback, current North Medford offensive coordinator Brent Barry, recommended Halpin to Jeffrey at USD.

He (Barry) called and said he had a good one (player) for us, says Jeffrey. So far, he's right.

Halpin will be used primarily as a strong safety and perhaps an outside linebacker for the Toreros, and he's expected to be an outfielder in baseball.

Halpin is North Medford's starting catcher this spring. He was a Southern Oregon Conference all-star as a center fielder last season.

I'd rather be an outfielder, but we needed me to catch this year, says Halpin. I'll be back playing the outfield for the Mustangs (American Legion team) this summer, and San Diego plans to use me in the outfield.

Jeffrey says Halpin offers San Diego's football team size and speed (he's been clocked in 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash).

Halpin totaled 67 receptions and 18 touchdowns for North Medford last fall.

His combination of power and speed also resulted in 550 rushing yards.

Kenny will have a good chance to come right in an play, says Jeffrey. He has good game speed. We would like to have him put on 15 pounds of muscle here and remain fast.

He will be a good strong safety for us because with his frame, he can come up and hit people and he can run with the smaller, fast guys on pass patterns. He's a good athlete with a good feel for the game offensively and defensively.

Halpin's coach at North Medford, Rod Rumrey, thinks the Toreros, once they see Halpin's speed, might consider using him as a slotback on offense.

Kenny doesn't look as fast as he is when he's running with the football, says Rumrey. But he's very fast. Nobody has caught him from behind in a game for a long time.

Rumrey says Halpin may have been overlooked by some Division I football programs, including Oregon and Oregon State. He did get offers to walk-on at larger schools.

I think he has the ability to play at the highest level, says Rumrey. He has the size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) and the speed to play at a higher level.

Division I schools look for aggressive defensive players. Kenny had to play with a separated shoulder for most of last year, and that took away some of the aggression he normally plays with. But he will show that again at San Diego.

Halpin says he would like to play a sport professionally.

I don't know which one, he says. Right now, it looks like it's football. But when you get down in that good weather, and get to play baseball and hit most of the year, it could end up baseball.

I don't know. I'll wait and see how I do.