Though we’re about to head into the biggest weekend of football with Sunday’s Super Bowl, today belongs to the next generation of players who are hoping to one day participate in the big game themselves. At the end of National Signing Day, we’ll know what colleges top-rated recruits will be signing with for the next few years of their lives.
While ESPN and other outlets will be closely following the top players, you won’t see too many Latinos signing their letters of intent. Of the more than 300 five- and four-star ranked athletes, only a small portion are Latinos – meaning that in a few years only a small number of Latinos are likely to make it to the NFL.
This is problematic, because as it stands, there’s only a few Latino players in the NFL. A 2012 ESPN Sports Poll found there were 25 million Latinos who considered themselves NFL fans, but in 2014, there were only 0.6 percent Latino players in the NFL, according to NJ.com. Part of this can be attributed to baseball and fútbol still being king among Latinos, but there’s other factors that keep Latinos from going to the NFL.
Recruiting rankings are, for the most part, correct about what players will have successful college runs, but being ranked three stars or below isn’t a death knell for a player. Because of this, we are looking back at five Latino footballers who didn’t get the attention they deserved during National Signing Day, but who have gone on to have stellar careers in the NFL:
As a high schooler in Burlington, Wisconsin, Tony Romo did not have a high enough rating to be recruited by a school with a strong football program. Instead, Romo went to Eastern Illinois University, where he played in a lower division, according to Bleacher Report.
Since then, Romo has gone to become the face of the Dallas Cowboys, and he has been named to the Pro Bowl four times.
As a three-star prospect, Max Garcia definitely wasn’t getting TV time on National Signing Day. Now at age 24, the NFL rookie started a few games for the Denver Broncos, the team with the best record in the AFC. So we can only expect big things from him, hopefully in his first Super Bowl game.
Louis Vasquez was also a three-star recruit, who worked his way from the 354th best high school player to the 78th pick in the NFL draft. He starts for the Denver Broncos and protects Peyton Manning, one of the best quarterbacks of all time.
When Roberto Garza was in high school, a military recruiter tried to dissuade him from going into football. The man told him that Mexicans don’t play in the NFL, so that he would feel compelled to join the army.
But Garza didn’t listen to him. He decided to push forward, despite having been a walk-on at Texas A&M-Kingsville. The former Chicago Bears left guard started in 66 consecutive games from 2005 and 2010. And though his team didn’t come out victorious at Super Bowl XLI, Garza built a nice career for himself, including getting featured on the cover of Madden 09 En Español.
Victor Cruz had a difficult start in football. He was a two-star rank, and according to MassLive, he was asked to leave the University of Massachusetts twice because of grades. He wasn’t drafted into the NFL, but since then, he’s become its most recognizable Latino faces.
He caught a touchdown pass and did his signature salsa dance celebration in Super Bowl XLVI.