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The hands behind St. Francis

Receiver Travis Talianko has developed into a phenomenal offensive threat for the Golden Knights

September 07, 2011|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com
  • Receiver Travis Talianko at St. Francis High School just before football practice on a very hot Friday afternoon on August 26, 2011. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
Receiver Travis Talianko at St. Francis High School just…

For all the touchdowns hauled in by St. Francis High senior receiver Travis Talianko — 24 in two varsity seasons — it might very well have been a slam dunk that proved most vital to his days as a Golden Knights standout and Division I college prospect.

Teaching a physical education class, Golden Knights Coach Jim Bonds saw a middle-school version of Talianko on some adjacent basketball courts. A slam dunk followed and soon, too, did Bonds, inquiring with the young man as to what high school he would be attending. When Talianko replied St. Francis, Bonds asked him if his plans included football.

They did and they have.

Over the last two seasons, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Talianko has made a name for himself while leaving defenses scratching their heads and his fellow Golden Knights rejoicing in his success. Blessed with a pair of hands as giant as they are reliable, he has shown a knack for big catches and a nose for the end zone in collecting more than his share of All-Mission League, All-CIF and All-Area accolades.

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"The ball goes up, he's gonna come down with it," Bonds said. "He's special that way."

Now, Talianko enters his senior season with the Golden Knights as a two-way starter with plenty of eyes upon him, college offers likely awaiting and one last impression to make.

The first impression made by football upon Talianko was a lasting one.

He took up flag football in junior high and immediately took a liking to a certain aspect of the game.

"I don't think I dropped a ball all year, so ever since then, I always wanted to play receiver," Talianko says.

Largely he has. As a freshman, though, he was called on to play tight end and defensive end. As a prodigy of flag football, he had never really dealt with the physicality of the game.

"We went out there and I got embarrassed," Talianko says of first day in pads.

Eventually, though, Talianko caught on. Just how much of the equation was his natural skills of catching the ball and getting himself open and just how much was hard work isn't quite measurable, but it's clear that Talianko has exemplified both.

"Best hands I've ever seen in high school," Bonds says. "Every once in a while he'll drop an easy pass, but he makes all the tough catches. That's stuff you can't really teach, it just comes naturally to him."

That certainly doesn't mean Talianko hasn't built a reputation among his peers for working hard and going the extra length to improve his game.

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