“He'd see me walking around the campus and meet me on a path. We'd have friendly conversations and he helped me make a decision about playing football. It's one of the best things I did listening to him.”

Cicuto, who now serves as the college's men's athletic director, recalled convincing Stokes to join the football program.

“At first, I wasn't sure if we would get him,” said Cicuto, who went 98-85-2 at Glendale college. “We'd heard a lot about him and felt like he could make a huge difference defensively for us.

“He had a lot of potential and such a great work ethic. He was a quiet guy, not a yeller or a screamer. As an outside linebacker, we thought he could fit in perfectly. We were blessed to have him there for two years and he was the best outside linebacker I've had here and I've had some good ones.”

Glendale had a successful 1984 season before things skyrocketed in 1985.

The Vaqueros would go on to have one of the best seasons in the program's history, finishing 10-1. Glendale won the conference title and finished the season ranked fifth in the nation.

Glendale appeared in the Potato Bowl against Taft at Bakersfield College's Memorial Stadium. The Vaqueros picked up a 30-24 come-from-behind victory. The Vaqueros featured four Junior College Grid Wire All-Americans, seven all-state and 22 all-conference honorees.

Glendale trailed, 21-3, in the first half before closing to within 21-17 at halftime. Taft extended its lead to 24-17 before Glendale knotted it at 24. The Vaqueros won it with 28 seconds remaining in the game when quarterback Rob Huffman tossed a touchdown pass to Jeff Jackson.

“That was such a special moment winning that game,” Stokes said. “We got that late touchdown and there was nothing more special than holding that trophy.

“The team and I played at our highest level. Being named the defensive MVP made it that much more sweet. We took care of business and we did it without being intimidated.”

Glendale averaged 35.3 points per game and yielded 14.2. The defense registered 45 turnovers, recovering 25 of 42 fumbles and intercepting 20 passes. In 11 games, the Vaqueros allowed 154 points before being inducted into the college's hall of fame in 2002.

Sartoris, who went 111-64-1 as head coach, said Stokes helped the 1985 squad stand out.

“We had a lot of great players, but he was the one who set the tone defensively,” said Sartoris, who served as head coach at Glendale from 1972-88. “Bill was the leader of our defense and he was somebody who you could always count on.

“He had that great track record for getting to the ball carrier and making a tackle. It mostly happened during the big times in a game. He raised the level of everybody else's play. Everybody fed off of him.”

Former Glendale college inside linebacker Mike Sweeney patrolled the line of scrimmage alongside Stokes during the 1985 season.

Sweeney said Stokes paved the way to shape the Vaqueros' defense.

“You knew going in that you had to pull your weight and he made that clear right from the start,” Sweeney said. “That was a talented group that had great team chemistry.

“With Bill, it came down to preparation and he showed the way for guys like myself that year. The coaching staff and Bill had everybody on the same page and we were a very tough team to beat. Bill has such a big heart and that's why he's been so successful.”

Following Glendale college, Stokes transferred to USC and played for the Trojans from 1986-87 under coaches Ted Tollner and Larry Smith. Stokes played alongside Marcus Cotton, Tim McDonald, Rodney Peete, Dave Cadigan, Erik Affholter and others.

In 22 games with USC, Stokes finished with 94 tackles and 11 sacks. In 1987, Stokes had 59 tackles, seven sacks and five pass deflections. The Trojans appeared in the Citrus Bowl in 1986 and Rose Bowl in 1987.

“I got to play with some fabulous players at USC and I had a great time,” Stokes, 46, said. “When I got to USC, I did so having had discipline instilled in me at GCC. That carried over to USC.

“With GCC, I'm very happy with what I accomplished individually and in helping my teams out. It's nice to be recognized by the college for something I took very seriously. I played sports because I loved it very much. It's what I am — an athlete.”