Following the 2022 Imperial Valley football season, the Central Union High School Spartans football team has signed two senior football players to the NCAA National Letters of Intent to full college scholarships to play Division I football.
The two players are Charlie Sullivan, who will attend California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly Slow), and Skylar Cook, who will attend the University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
That Cook and Sullivan have such high-profile scholarship is not lost on Central’s coach David Pena, who summed up the duo in the simplest yet most poignant statement.
“They are leaders on the field. They are committed to being the best they can be on and off the field,” said Pena. “They are simply, in the best sense of the word, student-athletes.”
Pena credits his players’ success with also competing to be their best, whether they’re training or playing three sports, and carrying that attitude into the classroom and recruiting process.
Cook and Sullivan both signed their national letters last month during the NCAA’s approval of the early signing period, which ran from December 21-23 in 2022.
SKYLAR COOK – UNM LOBOS
Cook’s stellar three-sport career at Central Union High included being selected to a three-time first-team All-Imperial Valley League and a second-team All-San Diego SAFE.
In addition, Cook also earned First Team All IVL honors in baseball and was named Defensive Quarterback of the Year in football and twice in basketball. He also added the San Diego Federal Credit Union (CIF SDS) Sportsperson of the Year to his resume.
In his three seasons as a defensive back on the Spartan football team, Cook collected 120 tackles, including 81 solo, and nine interceptions while also playing offense as a wide receiver.
“After my freshman year, I made the switch to playing defense primarily and found that I liked it at safety,” Cook said. “I found I’d rather do that than take a hit. Especially my senior year I wanted to focus on defense, and New Mexico’s defensive coaches appreciate that I can catch the ball instead of dropping it.”
One of just three of 11 initial Lobos signings slated to play on the defensive side of the ball, Cook will score this fall as New Mexico announced his signing on Twitter (@UNMLoboFB), letting everyone know Cook is ready to play, tweeting, “…I bring you A high school senior with the safety of a college freshman. We just did it!!! Welcome to the Lobo Skylar Cook family!!! Lobo fans will love seeing the_skylarcook fly around University Stadium!!!”
“I’m sure the defenders and coaches came to watch me play,” Cook said. “I think they were confirming that my frame was really collegiate and that I was physically mature.”
While playing collegiate football was a top priority for Cook, he was drawn to New Mexico because of what his scholarship experience could eventually earn him.
“Both Fresno State and the University of San Diego (University of San Diego) were interested in me, but the most important thing to me was my education, and New Mexico has a nationally recognized business program,” Cook said.
The campus visit also made an impression on Cook.
“Albuquerque is a very spread-out city, more densely populated than El Centro, but it has a small-town feel, the elevation is higher and it’s a bit cooler and cooler right now,” Cook said. “I loved the campus…the openness, the architecture, and the athletic facilities were great.”
Not surprisingly, Cook, who grew up in a close-knit family, was also drawn to New Mexico because of the interest they showed in it as a football player and as an individual.
“Their interest was very strong and they certainly made a constant effort to meet me and my family,” Cook said. “They make many visits to the valley and not only to watch me play football, but also to see what kind of person I am and about my family.”
What they found was strong family support for Cook, led by his mother, Don McKinney, and his brothers, Randy and Brandon Andrews, who are ex-Spartans. Brandon Cook also plays on scholarship to South Dakota State University.
“Absolutely my mom, it’s the closest relationship I’ve ever had,” Cook said. “My siblings are a big part of my life as mentors and role models, they never let me win anything when I was young, they made me work for everything,” said the new UNM Lobo.
When asked if he had any comments he wanted to add to the IVP interview, Cook was quick to answer.
“I wanted to say that none of this would have happened without the help of The Man Upstairs who has blessed me with all the people around me.”
Charlie Sullivan – Cal Mustang Bully Slow
A quarterback who enjoys three other sports, Sullivan is continuing his impressive basketball career by playing his third year of basketball before joining the track team this spring to defend his Imperial Valley League championship titles in the 200 and 400 meters.
“I love to play many sports,” Sullivan said, “but I’m going to play the sports I love most at Cal Poly.”
Football is also the sport that earned Sullivan the most local recognition, as Sullivan rushed for 1,347 yards and 19 touchdowns during his just-completed senior season. Sullivan’s high school football totals include rushing for 2,158 yards and 33 touchdowns, and 32 receptions for another seven touchdowns for the Spartans.
Sullivan dominated IVL opponents in 2022, scoring four touchdowns against Imperial and Southwestern, while scoring three touchdowns against Brawley in the CIF SDS D-II playoffs and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score, in the infamous Peel Game.
As impressive as those stats sound, it was Sullivan’s stats on defense that earned him the full scholarship that was of importance to the Cal Poly SLO, whose coach Paul Wolfe introduced Sullivan as an upcoming linebacker.
“Charlie played linebacker and fullback in high school. We had him at summer camp last year and are very impressed with his starting ability and speed as an athlete,” Wolf said via a Cal Poly SLO press release on the day of the signing. Charlie will bring an excellent amount of speed and fitness to the linebacker line.”
On defense, Sullivan totaled 57 tackles, including 33 solo, as well as 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hurries, two fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble in the 2022 season.
“Personally, with football, I don’t care which side I was on,” said Sullivan, who was named to the All Imperial Valley League first team on offense and defense.
“Cale Poly said they wanted me to play defense and I think they see something more in my abilities defensively than offensively,” said the future Mustangs linebacker.
To that end, as the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Sullivan continues to vie for the center field position this spring, Cal Poly SLO Mustangs have already had him start a training regimen to increase his strength.
“They didn’t say anything about whether I would continue to work at my speeds,” said Sullivan, who has been weight training at Central for four years, “but they did send me their workout plan and it’s very different from what I was doing.”
Sullivan worked hard to get his field scholarship offers from University of California Davis, Idaho State, Colgate, Air Force Academy and University of San Diego before choosing Cal Poly SLO.
“I met some of their coaches at a show at the University of Redlands and went to one of their summer football camps,” Sullivan said. “They knew I was there at camp talking to more coaches and getting a feel for campus.”
The quality of the school, which ranks first in the California State University system, and the campus were both factors in the Sullivan School’s decision.
“I fell in love with the environment and the area…when I was there I took a tour to see an overview of the campus and it’s impressive,” said Sullivan.
Born in Virginia, Sullivan came to El Centro in the third grade when his father, Michael Sr., transferred to Charlie with his older brother, Michael Jr., and mother, Nellie, as part of his assignment as an USCIS officer.
Besides learning a great sports work ethic from his family (Michael Jr., was a three-sport athlete at Central) and a love of basketball (Nellie Sullivan is the Southwest girls’ basketball coach), Charlie also learned the value of having a solid education, which helped in his quest for a career. on a scholarship.
Charlie Sullivan said, “I’ve always learned that sports were a stepping stone to education… Success in the classroom always comes first.” “In fact, I’ve learned to do my best no matter what I do,” he said.