Gonzalo Rodríguez is more than an outstanding wide receiver and running back for a Golden West High School that ended a 12-3 season with a home loss in the state 5-AA football championship last Saturday (Dec. 16).
Gonzo, as he is known by his Trailblazers teammates, is also one of 800,000 faces of young adults who could see their temporarily legal residency status endangered unless Congress passes legislation to protect the Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Rodríguez, whose father was deported to México, is the man of the house at age 17. His mother cleans houses for a living, and raises three children.
Football, and the community environment it creates, has become his escape.
During the championship game last Saturday (Dec. 16) played at Visalia Community Stadium, Rodríguez often wiped away the sweat with his handerchief, a small Mexican banner. Spectators often shouted his name in support of the home team.
“It represents me, and my race. I love my city, I love my country,” Rodríguez said of his teammates, the Visalia community and his home country. “I love everything about myself, I love everything about my team. I represent this to the death of me.”
Rodríguez has responded with more than 2,100 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns this season for the Trailblazers, who suffered a 42-12 loss to McClymonds High (14-0), whose larger players, including the son of a former NFL player, has won the title a second-consecutive time. Rodríguez, who has acumulated 5,200 career rushing yards, finished the state final with 123 rushing yards on 40 carries.
Rodríguez also led Golden West to its first Central Section football title (Division IV) in early December.
“We knew it was going to be a war, and (expletive), I love wars; I strap up and go up to the field,” said Rodríguez after countless hugs from teammates and congratulatory hugs from spectators.
Moments before Rodríguez answered questions from television news reporters on the game, he wiped his face with his handkerchief. He soon hugged his mother, Ana González.
Rodríguez has taken his duty as a ’Blazer with responsibility. He has maintained a better-than 3.0 grade point average at Golden West to make sure he plays on the team.
And he takes his duty in the home with even more responsibility.
Rodríguez helps his mother because it’s a must. There is no alternative.
An older sister, also a DACA recipient, attends College of the Sequoias. The youngest sibling was born in the U.S.
“I know I have a lot of people who support me right here in the area. I don’t think about it (DACA), but it’s scary,” said Rodríguez as he left the field with a small entourage in tow.
The family immigrated to the Central Valley from Jalisco, México 13 years ago.
Rodríguez, who also competes in track and field and wrestling for the Trailblazers, hopes his strong GPA and his team work can be the ticket to college.
His mother is praying DACA is renewed.
“Right now, we’re awaiting the decision from Congress. Without the program, it’s going to be difficult for him to go to college on a scholarship. We’re waiting for that second opportunity,” González said in Spanish.
He’ll graduate among the Trailblazers Class of 2018 and hailed as a member of the historic Visalia football team that hosted its first state title game.
“It’s going to be sad saying goodbye to my guys in the locker room. I’m going to try so hard not to cry. It’s going to be an intense feeling, but I’m glad to say I made it this far with my brothers,” said Rodríguez. “I love those guys to death.”