Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
By Oscar Rubio
Special to RDR Sports
Editor’s note: Goddard football standout Fernando Rubio was recently selected to play in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl in Dallas. His father Oscar Rubio wrote to RDR Sports to share Fernando’s experience, and the experience of the entire family as they traveled to watch Fernando compete in this prestigious postseason event. Also included are quotes provided by Fernando and Oscar Rubio to RDR Sports.
It was amazing to receive a special invitation in the mail for our son, Fernando, to be selected by an NFL committee to play defensive end at the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl game. East versus west — hosted at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys — was started in 2011.
This had significance because New Mexico’s high school football schedule was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The game was for graduating seniors only. Just as his high school football games were coming to an end, this invitation kept him excited and determined to stay in top shape, not only for this game, but for track and field.
The game was scheduled to be played on May 17. We left for Dallas on Friday, May 14 because he had to check-in and practice with the team on Saturday and Sunday, prior to the televised game to be played on Monday.
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This was exciting because the only time Fernando had to meet future teammates Braxton McDonald of Artesia and Christian Griego, an offensive lineman from Los Lunas, he had played against them during his time at Goddard.
Fernando would be teammates with JaCalvin Newsome, a wide receiver and running back for West Mesa, and Aron Dellerd, a defensive lineman from St. Pius X.
I’m extremely proud as a parent that he looked at this trip as business before pleasure. Once we arrived, he was very persistent about getting his schoolwork finished and out of the way before he checked in with his coaches. He kept his composure, his demeanor never changed and he continued to be focused.
The only time I noticed his nervousness was when we were waiting in the hotel lobby prior to the bus arriving to take them to their first four-hour practice. I can only imagine that he got butterflies because he had never met his teammates before that moment, and it had probably hit him that he would be playing with and against some of the elite high school football players that our great nation has to offer.
When he came back from his first evening’s practice, we walked in with a huge smile. My wife, Theresa, and I simultaneously said, “Practice was that good, huh?”
Fernando responded, “It was great.” Not only was he going to play his primary position, defensive end, but the team was putting him at defensive tackle and four-front on kick-off returns. Head Coach Arlen Harris, NFL veteran with the Rams and Lions, asked Fernando if he would be OK with switching out for more than one position. Fernando simply responded, “I’m used to it coach, it’s not a problem, I’ve done it for Goddard High School for the past four years.” Right there and then I knew he’d be fine. His confidence level was through the roof.
The next day after a quick brunch, Fernando grabbed his football gear and headed off to the host hotel lobby with his teammates to wait for the bus once more. Once we got to the Dallas/Fort Worth area it had rained hard off and on every day since we arrived. We were thankful that this program looked out for all the players’ safety by having their second practice in an indoor local high school stadium, to prevent any injuries.
Even though Texas was open from COVID restrictions, I told Fernando to practice with his mask on in order to help him — during the four-hour practices — to get used to the humidity level that is different the New Mexico, especially since he would be playing more than two positions.
After practicing that evening, the players received their jerseys and were introduced, and had pictures taken with their families. They were able to meet and greet some of the NFL players such as George Teague, Randall Cunningham, Arlen Harris and Ray Crockett.
“I felt pretty excited,” Fernando said. “My body was shaking because I never experienced being around all of those great athletes. It was an honor to experience.”
Fernando had a restless night and was excited to play the game. He kept waking up during the night wishing and hoping the time would get there so he could play the game. He knew that he would be ready to ball out because he knew what honor it was to play at this level in front of so many parents, fans, cameras, and broadcast for the nation to watch. Before he was on his way to the bus to leave to the AT&T Stadium, I gave him a hug, and told him, “Soak it in, have fun and leave it on the field.”
As my wife and I, our eldest son, Valentino Rubio, and his uncle, Agustin Rubio, and some of the family that came to see him were standing in line waiting to enter the stadium, we all bowed our heads and said a prayer for everyone’s safety who was playing that day. As we sat and waited for the teams to come out onto the field, I thought to myself how exciting it must be to be in the same locker room as the Dallas Cowboys.
Fernando said that when he first went into the locker room on game day, it made him feel surreal — and think to himself that not many people get to do this: Be in the Dallas Cowboy locker room. It’s is one thing to see it on TV, and another thing to be there in real life. In the locker room, they had plexiglass from locker to locker because of COVID regulations.
“I was more excited,” Fernando Rubio said. “I was taking pictures and trying to prepare myself and focus on the game by listening to inspirational and motivational music.”
After the West team won the coin toss and deferred the kick, it was a fierce battle. Both defenses showed up to play. Fernando had four tackles, one crucial block on a kickoff return to help his teammate run the ball all the way back to start the second half. He also recovered a fumble. The outcome of the game was East 42, West 29.
After the game, both teams took a knee in solidarity and showed respect toward each other and were thankful for the experience of being able to play one last game as seniors in high school and chosen to be All-American. On his way off the field, walking towards us in the stands, he grabbed a handful of turf from the star in the middle of the field to keep as a memory of that game.
This experience has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity not many people can say they have had. He is now more focused than ever to check in with his college head coach, Tye Hiatt from Eastern New Mexico-Portales, on July 5, for preseason. He is looking forward to bringing all he has to the table, to do his part and help the Greyhounds win the Lonestar Conference.
“All of the sacrifices my parents made are finally paying off,” Fernando said. “I’d like to thank my parents, grandparents, family, coaches, and mentors for all their support and guidance. It was such a great experience to play in an NFL stadium. All I’ve ever wanted was to make my school, Goddard, my coaches, and my community proud.”
Upon arrival back in Roswell, Fernando received more great news as he was selected to be inducted as a member of the Athenieses Chapter of the Goddard Honor Society. He received a certificate and cords for graduation on June 5th.
“Academic is more important than athletics,” Fernando said. “Being a good student is a process.”