Watching Joel Sanchez stand next to his football brothers at his signing, one might think he’s an underclassman, at 5 feet, 10 inches tall and 165 pounds — if they didn’t know him.
As Joel’s family, friends and teammates sat in the Roswell football field-house, no one could have foreseen this day when he was a sophomore defensive back.
Joel was one of the few high school athletes that transformed himself from a little-used defensive back as a sophomore to a two-way threat in his junior and senior years.
He was able to score on a slant across the middle. He was dangerous this year going after 50-50 balls — but he was most dangerous when Roswell was in a crucial fourth and 1, with the clock ticking down.
Roswell coach Jeff Lynn would normally take a timeout. Out of the timeout, the Coyotes would run a fake with a man in motion like they were going to snap the ball. The defense would jump out of position and Coyotes’ quarterback Dominic Nava would bark out signals as Joel would run in motion.
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Nava would take the snap, and hand the ball off to Joel on a jet sweep. Joel would turn a one-yard gain into a 30-yard touchdown to put a dagger into an opponent’s heart.
“Usually on the jet sweeps,” Joel said, “I stay wide and watch Jasia’s (Reese) block and go from there.”
During the offseason last year, Lynn made the decision to have his players go one way. This was to keep them fresher during games and provide more opportunities to make plays.
At first, Joel didn’t like the decision, but after he saw his touchdowns go from eight his junior season to 18 as a senior, he’s very happy with the decision.
“Coach Lynn gave me a chance to play,” Joel said. “My sophomore year I played corner, and this year I played strictly offense. I was a little mad at him, but I think it paid off.”
Joel made all-state as a senior, and as coach Lynn said, Joel is the only player he’s coached to run for a touchdown, throw for a touchdown and catch a touchdown.
Lynn said Joel also had a pick-six, and kicked a game-winning field goal as he did against Goddard his junior year.
“He kind of did it all for us,” Lynn said. “To be an all-state wide receiver, it’s a big deal.”
On Wednesday, Nava signed to continue his football career at New Mexico Military Institute. Joel believes with hard work and dedication in the weight room, he will be able to have the same success he’s had at Roswell.
Joel will play on offense at NMMI and look to win the field goal kicking job. Joel has a chip on his shoulder and will be ready to work and compete in fall camp. Though football is one phase of his life, Joel wants to be a physical therapist like his uncle, Julian, when he is done playing football.
“I’m really grateful for my family,” Joel said. “You can see they support me in everything I do.”
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or email@example.com.