The IVL Player of the Year joins seven other future Mustangs on opening day of early signing period
EL CENTRO, Calif., (KYMA, KECY) - As colleges across the country unlocked the door to the National Letter of Intent's Early Signing Period on Wednesday, Charlie Sullivan was one of the first in line to sign his name on the dotted line.
His signature representing the next four years of his young life playing Division I football at Cal Poly State University.
"It's a big relief of stress," said Charlie. "It's a great feeling after signing those papers, knowing I have another home."
In 2013, the Sullivan family was on the move after several stops before landing in El Centro, California - which ultimately became their true home. Years later, their youngest son, Charlie, not only embraced the community but also found himself another home: on the football field.
After dedicating himself to the game, Charlie would eventually reach great lengths on the legendary Cal Jones Field for the Central Spartans - culminating in the monumental step of committing to a college football program, following his breakout senior season.
Ironically enough, his first impression of his current home in El Centro at about nine-years-old wasn't the best after the Sullivan's moved around from coast-to-coast.
"I didn't like it," Charlie said with a chuckle. "It was like what everyone says, it's hot."
Fittingly though, it was football that reeled him in.
"When I started going to football games, that's when I fell in love with the culture here," Charlie added. "My brother's class is what brought the Central spirit back up, going on a winning streak in Coach Peña's first year. When I went to my first Bell Game, I fell in love with it. I knew I wanted to play on that field, knowing that all eyes are on you."
And as if the script had already been written, it was Charlie scoring the game-winning touchdown for the Spartans in this year's 79th Annual Bell game. That on top of rushing for three more touchdowns two weeks later against the same team, Brawley, to advance to the CIF Division II semi-finals. A perfect cap to an incredible two years.
After breaking onto the scene as a junior in 2021, Charlie entered 2022 with the same group of talented skill players as the year before. It was an offense that could strike from any angle at any moment - yet Charlie was still the go-to guy in many situations, carrying a heavy load.
He hit the ground running, rushing for 1,347 yards and 19 touchdowns, while also contributing 241 yards and four scores through the air - amassing over 2,000 rushing yards and 40 total touchdowns in two seasons.
But it wasn't just his offensive skills that shined. His play on defense contributed to what set him apart and led to the many offers he received - most likely on his way to playing defense as a Mustang.
Charlie's 57 total tackles and 2.5 sacks in his senior campaign made him one of the best defensive players, as well. All of these numbers leading to him being recognized as a first team All-Imperial Valley League player on both sides of the ball, while bringing home the MVP.
He was also crowned Friday Night Lights' All-Imperial Valley Player of the Year.
Not only did his stats on the field do the talking, his leadership and character spoke volumes as a team captain - not to mention the support and gratitude aimed towards him on this special day.
His father, Mike, along with head coach Rookie Peña, and Valley Sports Network broadcaster, Vic Carillo, all preached kinds words about Charlie and the mark he made on the El Centro, and entire Imperial Valley, community.
While Charlie's departure will be bittersweet for the Central family and his family at home, he will not be taking off next fall without leaving behind a legacy to remember.
"This is probably one of the pinnacles of the Sullivan family," said his father, Mike. "We've had a lot of good fortune, and certainly sending Charlie off to play at the next level is one of the best things."
Something Mike and the family are even more eager to see is Charlie's continued growth, leading to the next part of his life being written right before their eyes - and something they'll never let go of.
"He started playing football at 11-years-old. To see him develop into a man and take that next step into adulthood, it's been quite a ride," said Mike. "Any time a parent sends their child away, you're going to miss him, but we know that's a necessary step."
What makes this new adventure so special is some of those adult steps are still unknown for Charlie. Education wise, he is undecided, but is exploring his options in communications and graphics, while also a potential turn towards kinesiology.
And as the education side unfolds, so will his position on the field. Charlie tells us that he was recruited by Cal Poly head coach, Paul Wulff, as an "athlete."
Coach Wulff giving praise to Charlie's ability:
"We had him in summer camp this past year and we're very impressed with his explosiveness and quickness as an athlete. Charlie will bring an excellent amount of speed and physicality to the linebacker group."
So whether that means taking on a defensive role or getting the chance to scamper down the sideline for touchdowns, he will scrap and claw for whatever he can get.
"No matter what position I play, I just want to play ball. That's what I told all the coaches that have been recruiting me. I just want to play," said Charlie. "And knowing that I'm part of that small percentage that gets to play at the next level, it's a feeling I can't really explain. I'm just doing something I love."
So as Charlie finds himself in whatever role at Cal Poly, the next chapter is being written out. From his first Bell Game, to his several individual honors on the field, and all the way to his first collegiate game - Charlie and the people in his corner are ready to continue the ride.
"We know he's going to write that next chapter in his life," Mike added. "Quite frankly, he's only going to be a few-hundred miles away as he writes it. So we intend to be sitting in the stands, reading his new book."