Most Cardinal fans probably don’t know London Iakopo as well as the marquee names on the UofL football roster. Nonetheless, Iakopo’s story is fascinating and is a name fans should pay attention to.
Iakopo’s ACT test scores did not match up with his high school GPA. So as a result, he didn’t receive any offers from any D1 programs and enrolled into Long Beach Community College in 2014. Iakopo was rated as a 3-star athlete in Junior College and was ranked the No. 2 junior college safety in the country, according to 247sports.com.
Iakopo endured the trials and tribulations that junior college football presents. He attended Long Beach Community College from the fall of 2014 to the spring of 2016. He enrolled into the University of Louisville in the summer of 2016. The Netflix series Last Chance U has shed some light on some of the trials and tribulation Junior College athletes endure. If you have not watched it, I advise that you do. Iakopo discussed how he was able to overcome the daily struggle of JUCO along with his time at the University of Louisville.
JUCO is one of the most difficult collegiate athletic associations to play in. Over 26,000 student athletes participate annually in intercollegiate athletics at California’s community colleges. Junior College athletes endure occasionally starvation, financial difficulties, horrible housing system, and many more deficiencies.
“Juco was a struggle. The main thing that hurt me the most was asking my parents to help me pay for classes, books, football, etc. you want to be grown up and handle it on your own but sometimes you just can’t” Iakopo said to me. “I did my best to get some money together to get lunch if we didn’t have food at the house, but there would be sometimes I didn’t eat before practices and even games. Had to find my own rides from teammates, and tried my best to not have to rely on my Mom and dad as much simply because I didn’t want to be a burden because I knew they were busy with my other brothers and sisters.”
JUCO football programs in California are merciless. The California Community College Athletic Association prevents programs from offering athletic scholarships and campuses do not provide on housing. JUCO student-athletes have to collaborate with teammates to sign leases for apartments. Depending on the area of the state the athlete is in, rent can exceed 2,000 dollars a month for a two-bed room. There are athletes that are forced to live with four to six teammates to be able to afford rent. If the athletes are struggling to pay rent, it is customary that athletes struggle with consistently obtaining meals. According to collegesimply.com, the total cost for in state athletes at Long Beach Community College is 20,844.
Iakopo rose above the difficulties of JUCO and earned an athletic scholarship to Louisville after finishing his JUCO career with 118 total tackles, 4 interceptions, 14 tackles for lost and 3 forced fumbles.
“However overall, as hard as it was it molded me, and matured me into who I am now. That grind taught me values like integrity, grit, and poise to just keep pushing through it and there will be brighter days. Adversity will always knock you down at first like it did me, but I promise you if you get back up and fight back, you’ll make it through and get where you want to go” and also praised his coaches and teammates. “I can honestly say my juco coaches and teammates were some of the best people I met. I’m in contact with basically all of them still. My coaches were a positive influence on me. Guided me and continue to do so. And my teammates I truly can call my brothers. We are indeed a family”
The 6-foot, 210-pound safety in 2016 played in five games for the Cardinals, mostly on special teams, and recorded five tackles before a torn ACL concluded his season. His position last year was changed to linebacker in the base 3-4 scheme under Peter Sirmon. He recorded 19 tackles in 11 games as a backup, including 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
Iakopo has switched back to safety after the addition of new defensive coordinator Brian Vangorder. The transition back to safety has given Iakopo confidence because of his natural feel playing safety. He believes he is one of the leaders in the secondary and has taken on the role of being a mentor to the younger players in the secondary.
After a maligned defensive performance from the Cardinals in 2017, Iakopo thinks the new scheme and the infusion of new talent can lead to defensive improvements for the Cardinals.
”We can be one of the best I truly believe that. We have more than enough talent and depth, but when in the end, it comes to it all effort and execution takes control. We have to swarm to the ball and finish.”<