The Rise and Fall of Jeremiah Masoli (cont.)
It was the first of several lies that Masoli would come to regret, including his identical lie to police the next day. But although it notes these initial dishonesties, the 52-page report compiled by the Eugene police department offers little else to contradict the story Masoli tells today about his lack of involvement in the burglary. What the report does reveal is an incomplete investigation that does not describe how Masoli and Embry converged from their separate, unrelated social agendas that night to meet up at the SAE house and commit a burglary. Nor does it account for the phone records that show no calls or text messages between Masoli and Embry on the night of the burglary, and no contact in the weeks before it. The report also fails to explain why the police searched Masoli's vehicle, his apartment, even the dumpster and recycling bin behind his apartment, but makes no mention of searching the residence or car of Embry. (The two MacBooks and guitar were never recovered.)
(The Eugene Police Department did not respond to SI.com's questions about the case.)
So if Masoli didn't steal anything that night, why did he lie?
"I just didn't want to affiliate myself with anything like robbery or anything that had to do with that," he says, "because I had been through it all already. I had been through that whole ordeal already."
An American combat veteran who has twice been deployed to Afghanistan recalls the robbery that landed Masoli in trouble in high school. The soldier, who asked that his name, rank and branch of service not be disclosed for fear that his military career would be jeopardized, was driving the truck in which Masoli, then 16, and two of their football teammates from Serra High in San Mateo, Calif., were riding that day in June 2005, along with two other juveniles. It was after an off-season workout, the soldier says, and they had pulled up outside Hillsdale High to pick up a friend when the guys in the back hopped out, walked over to a kid who was smaller than they were, and told him to hand over his wallet. As Masoli describes it: "I was sitting in the shotgun seat, and we pulled up and parked and these guys in the back got out, and I got out too ..."
Masoli and the driver independently recall that Masoli got out of the vehicle last, and with hesitation, before the victim gave up his wallet, which according to redacted juvenile records reviewed by SI.com, contained $10 cash and a Jamba Juice card. Those same records indicate that Masoli was not the instigator in the robbery and didn't say anything to the victim. Masoli told police that when he looked inside the wallet as it was being passed around, he was relieved to find it empty.
Masoli appears to still harbor remorse as he describes how he failed that day. He says he should have been the leader his father had raised him to be; should have herded the guys back to the truck and told them how stupid this was; should never have gotten back in the truck with the stolen wallet and the guys who stole it.
Because he did none of those things, he knows that by the letter of the law he was as guilty as the other guys. So he doesn't complain about the guilty plea he entered, or the nearly three months he spent in a youth detention center wearing a jersey with the facility's name stenciled across his back. Instead, he expresses what he told a San Mateo police officer in 2005. "If given the chance to speak with the victim," the confidential police report states, "[Masoli] said he would 'apologize for what we did. ... I mean, I'd just like to really say I'm sorry.'"
"He did not initially understand why what he did was illegal," the report concludes, "but he understands now."
Masoli and the driver also stated independently of one another that they didn't know the guys in the back of the truck as well as they knew each other, and they didn't know that two of them had committed such robberies before. A snowball of inaccurate reporting as to this last fact is why years later, at the peak of his football fame, Masoli would be described erroneously in several media accounts as having been involved in a series of robberies as a teenager. Confidential sources (and the San Francisco Chronicle) have confirmed that only two of the juveniles present that day were implicated in another incident. Not Masoli.
According to confidential probation records, Masoli's high school disciplinary record at the time "consist[ed] of three entries, one for ... tardies, and two for dress code violations." He spent his 17th birthday in a small brick room with a tiny window on the door. "I definitely don't regret going in there," Masoli says of the Hillcrest Juvenile Hall. "It definitely changed my life ... just jumpstarted my whole life."
He had been a 3.0 student and was a football star at private, academically rigorous Serra before he was expelled following the robbery. Harvard and Yale had been among the schools recruiting him. After his expulsion, the recruiters stopped calling.
Soon thereafter, his father, Kennedy, quit his job as a hotel manager and tapped into his 401(k) account so he could move with Jeremiah to Hawaii (mother Linda remained in Daly City with the couple's two younger children). Kennedy enrolled his son at St. Louis High in Honolulu, another highly regarded parochial school and a football powerhouse. Jeremiah was on the team but didn't play much because the nationally-ranked Crusaders had future Division I-AA star Cameron Higgins at quarterback. "Taking him to Hawaii had nothing to do with football," the elder Masoli says. "It was about getting him away from some of the negative influences around him and graduating from a good school so he could move forward."
When he was at Serra, Masoli had worked out with the football team at City College of San Francisco, and was given an open invitation to play there by coach George Rush. After Masoli's troubles, Rush renewed the invitation. Masoli seized this second chance, and in the only season he played at CCSF accounted for 4,000 yards and 41 touchdowns and led the Rams to the state and mythical national titles. "I never had a minute's trouble with the kid," Rush said recently. "He was my captain. He couldn't do enough. He was on time, he was respectful, he was a good student."
After the 2007 season Rush sent an unsolicited DVD of Masoli's highlights to Oregon, with whom Masoli later signed. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound Masoli arrived in Eugene in 2008 with a surgically-repaired throwing wrist and a spot so low on the depth chart -- fifth-string -- that it later became part of his legend. Due to a rash of injuries, he was the starter by Game 4 that fall. In the final three games of that year he gained more than 1,000 yards, scored 13 touchdowns and threw just one interception. The Ducks won the Holiday Bowl and Masoli was named the game's MVP. Oregon had a new hero.
Ryan Miller Helps lead Blues to 2-1 win over Avalanche
Reilly Smith scores in seventh round of shootout to give Bruins win over Lightning