Hispanic heritage united Carl Hayden football
December 6, 2017 by Cristian Egurbide, Arizona State University
Carl Hayden Community High School started this football season with only 31 players on its active roster.
That number shrank to 26 when numerous players had to leave the team for personal reasons or eligibility.
Of the members who remained on the team, nearly all of them were of Hispanic descent. Many of these teammates have played together for years.
“We’ve all grown up here in West Phoenix,” running back Mario Delgadillo said. “This is all we know.”
Growing up playing football in the Phoenix area, it’s not uncommon to have many Hispanic players on a team.
After all, out of the 2,203 students who attend Carl Hayden High School, more than 90 percent of them are Hispanic.
That is a high number, but one that these players understand and embrace. To them, it gives a feeling of camaraderie with their teammates knowing they have similar backgrounds.
“I think it’s something we use to connect us,” senior Geronimo Veleta said. “We share common heritage, and it makes us feel like even more of a family.”
With only 26 players on their team, the Carl Hayden football team nearly does feel like a family.
Practices could be likened to watching a large family pickup game taking place in the back yard on Thanksgiving.
Players worked hard, pushed one another, and had a good time while doing it. The closeness of the team can be felt from the sidelines.
These players formed a great bond together, as most high school football teams tend to do. What separated Carl Hayden was this unity that the players have with one another.
“We see one another as brothers,” Delgadillo said. “It’s a good feeling, because whether we’re on or off the field we know our brothers have our back.”
When they were not grinding on the practice field or trying to put together a win on Friday nights, the Carl Hayden football team was a tight knit group off the field.
“We always hang out together,” senior Fernando Becerra said. “We don’t separate juniors and seniors or anything. It’s always a very inclusive vibe.”
The players see their lack of ethnic diversity as simply a product of their environment. Most of the kids they’ve gone to school with or been friends with since childhood have been Hispanic.
“It’s not something we necessarily pay attention to,” Veleta said. “That’s just always the way it’s been growing up, and we’re comfortable around these people because we’re similar.”
The Hispanic culture is strong in West Phoenix, and the players embrace that aspect of their environment as well.
After football games, it was common for a group of teammates to get together and go to Rita’s Mexican Food a few minutes from their football stadium. It reminds them of their rich heritage.
The boys of Carl Hayden are another example that having a deep roster or loads of talent is surpassed by a strong bond and loyalty between teammates.