Donna North High School student Juan Angel Martinez has made history at his school. The senior is the first to sign with a four-year university to play collegiate football.
Martinez made it official at a special ceremony held recently at the DNHS gymnasium. Before several classmates, administrators, coaches, friends and mother, Martinez penned his signature on a Letter of Intent from Hardin-Simmons University (HSU). The private Baptist institution is an NCAA Division III school affiliated with the American Southwest Conference.
“I’ve been dreaming about this day since I was a little boy and it feels really good,” Martinez said. “Being the first student at Donna North to sign up to play college football is a big accomplishment. I remember when I started my freshman year here I told myself I was going to be the first one and I am.”
Martinez was recruited as an offensive lineman, the same position he played for four years at DNHS. He said the news is still sinking in. “I never really liked the sport when I was a little boy,” Martinez recalled. “Finally, I asked my mom if I could play football one year. She said ‘if you have the guts to ask me, you’re going to play the whole season.’ I played and after that I fell in love with the sport.”
The young man admits he had a hard time deciding which university to sign with. He was being heavily recruited by HSU and two other universities. It was after church one day that he told his mother he had made up his mind and was signing to play at HSU.
“I’m very proud of my son,” Maria Carmen Martinez said. “I know God will guide him. It’s because of him that my son came to this decision. He had been at this for about four weeks and finally after church he said mom ‘I’m signing’ so I guess he had prayed about it. His decision was the right one.”
Martinez said part of the reason he agreed to go with HSU is because the university offered him scholarship money each year for four years to help pay for his college expenses. The atmosphere also had a lot to do with his decision. “It wasn’t an environment where I felt intimated or scared,” Martinez said. “It was real homey. It felt nice. It really did.”
He said the HSU coaches also offered to pay for tutoring if needed. “I was happy and my mom was very happy,” Martinez said. “If you need a tutor, they’ll pay for the tutor. School comes first there and I like that.”
Martinez credits his mother for his success. In fact, he said it is because of her that he never missed a day of class since his pre-kinder days. “I was always telling him that he needed to go to school,” Maria Carmen Martinez said. “That made a big difference because in the long run people look at that. I’ve always been punctual. I’ve always been to work. I’ve never missed work unless I’m really ill and that’s the way he is now. He’s learned from me.”
“My mom would tell me that going to school every day was what was going to get me through life,” Martinez said. “She would remind me about the importance of finishing high school and getting a college education. She would push me to be the best I could be.”
Martinez plans to major in sports medicine at HSU and continue his education by seeking a civil engineering degree at another university. “I would tell him to do what I didn’t get to do,” Maria Carmen Martinez said. “I just finished high school. I told him that I wanted more for him because nowadays you need an education and a higher education to get a good job.”
Mother and son have a close bond. The younger Martinez summed it up best. “God comes first in my life, then it’s my family, then it’s football,” Martinez said. “That’s how I put it in order because you know if you don’t love God you can’t love your family and you can’t love your sports. That’s how I put it.”