The odds of five teammates from one high school football team ending up in the same college program aren't high.

Add in the facts that the college is an Ivy League school and the players are all from California, and the odds jump to the level of "Say that again."

That, however, is exactly what the University of Pennsylvania has as it opens its 2018 schedule Saturday against visiting Bucknell.

Senior strong safety Sam Philippi, junior defensive back Conor O'Brien, junior quarterback Nick Robinson, sophomore defensive back Riley O'Brien and freshman punter Jake Haggard all played at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

Conor O’Brien started all 10 games for the Quakers in 2017.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Conor O’Brien started all 10 games for the Quakers in 2017.

"Pretty crazy," said Conor O'Brien, who started all 10 games in 2017. "It started with Sam Philippi.

"He was first, and when he would come back home during his freshman year, he'd always say how great it was at Penn. He talked to the [JSerra] players and the coaches. People started thinking about it and it just started a pipeline.

"Now it's like we're one family. It makes us like a close niche while we're on the other side of the country."

Word of mouth concerning personal experience is still one of the best forms of advertisement.

Defensive back Sam Philippi helped spread the word among his classmates at his southern California high school.
Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer
Defensive back Sam Philippi helped spread the word among his classmates at his southern California high school.

Philippi, a preseason first-team All-Ivy pick who was second-team All-Ivy in 2017, said his parents had always stressed the value of education, and he decided early on that he wanted to go to an Ivy League school.

Penn was the only one that actively recruited him, and he signed the day after his official visit to Philadelphia.

"Ever since I set foot on campus I felt this will always be the best decision I make in life from this point on," Philippi said. "It's kind of cliché, but being at this school and being on the football team is like one giant family. My dad said to go to a city on the East Coast, to get out of California for a while, it's going to give you a whole different outlook on life. And that's what it's done."

Phillipi said he wasn't planning on recruiting for Penn when he told his friends about the great experience he was having. He just wanted them to know if they had the opportunity, they'd likely enjoy it as much.

Conor O'Brien was sure Philippi would not steer them wrong and committed to Penn in 2015.

Robinson took a couple of connecting flights, first spending 2015 on the scout team at the University of Georgia and then playing at Saddlebrook Community College before landing at Penn in 2017, the same year Riley O'Brien joined his older brother as a Quaker.

This season Haggard decided to try Philadelphia.

Penn quarterback Nick Robinson spent a season on the Georgia scout team and time at a junior college before landing in Philly.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Penn quarterback Nick Robinson spent a season on the Georgia scout team and time at a junior college before landing in Philly.

"The opportunity just to have a chance to go to a school like [Penn] is one in a million," said Robinson. "This is such a difficult school to get into.

"So first to be able to get an education like this and then to be able to play for a championship-caliber football program is what you ask for. Penn is a program that has already had so much success. The bar is set high and we want to help to continue to keep raising it."

California has been an important recruiting state for fourth-year Penn coach Ray Priore. With 14 players, California ranks second only to New Jersey (16) as the home state for players on the roster.

"For a long time, I've recruited out in California," said Priore, who has been on the Penn coaching staff since 1987 and whose Quakers were picked to finish fourth by the league coaches. "We have some great friendships with coaches out there and people that we know.

"We built a relationship with [JSerra] and the kids kind of feed off themselves – one brings the next best one in."

It may continue for a long time.

"I think Penn is a school and program that's become fairly well known at JSerra," O'Brien said.

Penn season preview

2017 Record: 6-4, 4-3 (4th in Ivy League)

Head Coach: Ray Priore – 20-10 overall, 16-5 in Ivy

Players to watch: Linebacker Nick Miller (2017 All-Ivy); safety Sam Philippi (2017 second-team All-Ivy); running back Karekin Brooks (840 yards, 9 touchdowns).