A friendship and legacy of Ridgeview High players in Ames

Iowa State defensive back Kamari Cotton-Moya attempts to stop West Virginia wide receiver Daikiel Shorts Jr. as he crosses the goal line on Nov. 26 at Jack Trice Stadium. West Virginia defeated Iowa State by a final score of 49-19.

Brian Mozey

Kamari Cotton-Moya was going into his redshirt sophomore year in 2015 when he heard some great news from his hometown, Bakersfield, California.

One of his former high school teammates, Sheldon Croney Jr., committed to Iowa State as a running back. Cotton-Moya was excited to see another Ridgeview High School player make the 1,739-mile road trip to Ames.

A year later, in 2016, Cotton-Moya and Croney Jr. could see the success build from Ridgeview as Lawrence White came to Iowa State as a defensive back. Cotton-Moya was excited because White wasn’t just a teammate, he was a relative.

“Kamari [Cotton-Moya] and Sheldon [Croney Jr.] helped me with understanding what Iowa State football was like during my recruitment process,” White said. “It was nice to have a cousin like Kamari and a friend like Sheldon to help me get acclimated to a new state and a new environment.”

Cotton-Moya and White are cousins and will soon be teammates on the defensive side for the Cyclones this upcoming season. Cotton-Moya, a redshirt senior defensive back, and White, a redshirt freshman defensive back, are excited to play alongside each other for the first time in their football careers. White reached the starting varsity role in high school when Cotton-Moya graduated from Ridgeview.

White was a dual threat in high school playing a strong game at quarterback and cornerback, but will be playing defensively at Iowa State. He took a redshirt his first year as a Cyclone, but this season the pre-fall camp depth chart has White as the backup to Reggie Wilkerson at the strong safety position.

Cotton-Moya has been giving White some advice regarding the defense and what he should expect, but he also wants White to learn on his own. His cousin isn’t the only one that’s seen growth from the redshirt freshman. 

Defensive coordinator Jon Heacock has been impressed with the improvement White has made this spring and summer. Heacock said he’s seen him mature in his game and understand his role on the field as a defensive back. 

Assistant head coach Louis Ayeni remembered his trip to Bakersfield because he went there recruiting one player and came back with three players in mind.

“I traveled to Ridgeview to recruit Kamari [Cotton-Moya],” Ayeni said. “While I was watching, I noticed a couple other players (White and Croney Jr.) that would fit perfectly at Iowa State, so I continued to go back there each year.”

During the two years these three players have been Cyclones, they’ve been inseparable. They work out in the weight room together, they motivate each other to become better than the day before, and they always have each other’s backs.

Croney Jr. remembers one distinct memory from this past summer in the weight room. The three of them were lifting and encouraging each other. Suddenly, it became a competition.

One player was trying to lift more weights than the other two players. They realized after a few rounds, they all were having personal bests in weight lifting.

“We push each other to higher extremes because we all know how push one another in the best way,” Croney Jr. said. “It’s allowed us to develop into some of the best players this summer both on and off the field.”

All three of the Ridgeview players hope this tradition continues by the legacy they build at Iowa State in the years to come. The next target from Ridgeview will be Cotton-Moya’s younger brother, Jamar Moya.

Moya will be an upcoming high school senior and will play running back, wide receiver and defensive back. He’s been getting scouted by many different schools throughout the country, but the three Iowa State players have been recruiting since Cotton-Moya made his decision five years ago.

“I hope he’ll become a Cyclone next fall, but I’m letting him make his decision,” Cotton-Moya said. “He’s enjoyed Iowa State every time he comes, so just keep crossing your fingers.”

White, Croney Jr. and Cotton-Moya understand they are not playing football for themselves at Iowa State. They are representing a community back home in Bakersfield and they want to make the city proud and, more importantly, Ridgeview High School proud.

“Bakersfield will always be home for the three of us,” White said. “That’s where we were born and raised, so we want to make sure we’re representing that city the right way in everything we do.

“Ames is a second home, but Bakersfield will always be our first home.”