ONTARIO — Colony senior Deijon Laffitte isn’t overly superstitious, but you will be hard-pressed to find him without a couple of key accents to his wardrobe: a pair of necklaces, one with his nickname “DJ” and another of Buddha.
“The Buddha, I look at it as good luck,” Laffitte said. “So I always wear it around me at all times. I’ve got to have certain stuff with me, wherever I go.”
It’s not luck that got Laffitte to be the force of nature he is for the Titans football team. Opponents trying to block or tackle Laffitte seem to need luck a lot more than he does.
Laffitte is the second front-seven defender from Colony in as many years to get lots of attention from college Division I programs. He’s following in the footsteps of Isaiah Ward, who was a senior outside linebacker on last year’s CIF Southern Section championship team and is now playing for the University of Arizona.
“I learned a lot (about recruiting), especially from Ward,” Laffitte said. “He was my teammate, right by my side, A.J. (Jones, also at Arizona) too. They told me to be patient with it. They didn’t try to influence me to follow them. It was just ‘be patient, find what’s really for you. Where do you feel like you fit in and just take it from there.’”
The 6-foot-4, 285-pound Laffitte is not a carbon copy of the 6-6, 240-pound Ward, but they both have versatility about where they line up on defense.
“DJ can play all the techniques. We can line him up anywhere,” Colony coach Brian Zavala said. “For his size and for his weight, he is so athletic.”
While Ward received the defensive spotlight for Colony, Laffitte put up impressive numbers, too. He had 68 total tackles in 14 games, including nine sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss.
It might seem hard to believe now, but Laffitte didn’t always consider himself a Division I prospect.
“Before high school, I took football kind of seriously,” he said. “But I didn’t think I would go anywhere with it, because I wasn’t developed. I was late to the whole lifting weights and working out stuff. As soon as I came here my freshman year, I started getting into it.”
Zavala said he’s developed into a leader in several ways.
“He’s just a great, great high character kid. He’s a leader vocally and he’s a leader with actions. You’re more successful (as a team) when you have those verbal leaders,” Zavala said. “He’s got a high football IQ. He’s able to get everybody in the right spot from the d-line position and that’s hard to do.”
Laffitte will get double- and triple-teamed this year and he accepts that, as long as his teammates take advantage.
“They’re going to throw everything at me, triple-team, double-team. I have to be physically and mentally prepared for that,” he said. “I’ll tell my guys on the left and right side, ‘I’m going to do this. I just need y’all to make sure to do y’all’s job so y’all can get to the quarterback.’”
Zavala appreciates the unselfish attitude and wants to reward Laffitte for it.
“He doesn’t complain. He works hard every day. You want to get him those one-on-one matchups,” he said.
He will also continue to play on offense at fullback and tight end, although probably not as much as last year.
“This year, I’m only going to come in on the money downs,” he said.
Currently, Laffitte said of the schools that have made scholarship offers to him, four are above the others in terms of his interest: Arizona, Boise State, Colorado and Fresno State. He plans to announce his college commitment on Nov. 21, his mother’s birthday.
“I’d like him to have an opportunity to play right away,” Zavala said. “And play in a scheme that’s similar to ours.”
— PETE MARSHALL
10 MORE DEFENSIVE LINEMEN TO WATCH THIS SEASON
Javier Castaneda, Ramona: Senior defensive end registered 42 tackles and three sacks last season.
Lucas Conti, Centennial: Defensive end with a massive wingspan racked up seven sacks as a junior.
Sione Fakava, Aquinas: Senior end once again will be important member of the Falcons’ defense.
Nick Juarez, Yucaipa: Led the Thunderbirds with 78 tackles and 11 sacks during his junior season.
Philander Lee, Cajon: Senior was among the team leaders with nine tackles for loss last season.
Zane Poulter, Chino Hills: Edge rusher registered 17 tackles for loss and six sacks as a junior.
Caleb Poyer, Vista Murrieta: Senior nose guard will be defensive leader along with his bother Andrew.
Alaska Taufu, Summit: Defensive end racked up 11 sacks and 18 quarterback pressures as a junior.
Zac Torres, Roosevelt: Had breakout sophomore campaign and finished season with 62 tackles.
Christian Wilson, North: The 6-5, 310-pounder had 21 quarterback pressures during junior season.
— ERIC-PAUL JOHNSON