By J.C. Casarez
Some see football as just a sport, something that serves as entertainment for those that watch and recreational for those who participate in it. For some it means more, something that changes lives, as in the case of Bryan Munoz-Alvarez.
The football season has come to an end and among the standout players on the ELAC Football team is Munoz-Alvarez.
The 22-year-old sophomore wide receiver had his best year on the field leading the team in receptions and receiving yards. He also tied for second in the conference for most touchdowns.
And, to think that if not for a change in schools and a recommendation from his mother, Munoz-Alvarez may have never played football.
Originally a student at South Gate High School, the city had constructed a new school on the other side of town to help with overcrowding.
The change for Munoz-Alvarez would be a blessing in disguise. At the time he admits he was hanging with the wrong crowd and going down the wrong path in life.
Once he arrived at his new school, the experience would serve as a second chance at life and soon he would find football.
“They were sending flyers for all the sports they were opening that year for South East, and my mom showed me this flyer. She said I should try out for football because I have speed and played soccer.
“That’s how I got into football. My sophomore year was my first time playing,” Munoz-Alvarez said.
While soccer was his sport of choice at the time, once he played football there was no turning back and soon it became his priority. He admits that the learning curve was there at the beginning, but soon his natural abilities along with hard work started to pay off.
While his accomplishments on the field are impressive for his 5’11,” 185 pound frame, it’s the manner in which he has handled issues off the field that are the most inspiring.
While in his senior year at South East High School, he would find out that his then girlfriend was pregnant with his son, who is now four years old.
As one of the city’s brightest talents, Munoz-Alvarez had visited La Verne University, UCLA and San Diego State as possible schools he considered attending.
Two years would pass after high school where he wouldn’t play football. In his senior year he would make the decision that he wasn’t going to continue to play football.
“I wasn’t going to continue playing football because she was pregnant and I wanted to take care of them,” Munoz-Alvarez said.
Being stuck in a daily job with no real future wasn’t the life he wanted. This contributed to the thought of returning to school and maybe football would be in his future again.
It was ELAC’s coaching staff that kept in contact with him and helped him realize that he had to return to football and school in order to better his future for his son and him.
“I decided to go to ELAC and give it a shot. If my skills were still there from High School, I would continue,” Munoz-Alvarez said.
Upon his return school and football were once again at the center of his attention as he dedicated his time at both. Now at the next level he was able to focus on playing wide receiver and no longer worry about defensive schemes or the free safety position he occupied in high school.
Considered undersized for his position of wide receiver, Munoz-Alvarez would have to prove to his coaches that he was the top receiver on the team.
When the season started he was placed as the number four on the depth chart but soon he would prove his worth and was at the top.
When the season ended on a loss to San Diego Mesa, Munoz-Alvarez would start thinking about the next leg of his journey. A business major, he awaits the recruiting process that could take will take him to a university where he can complete his degree while continuing to play football.
He also looks forward to running track next semester and a chance to utilize his speed that in the 40-yard dash is 4.4 seconds.
The decision to return to school and continue football is something he thinks about as he reflects on his past.
“Being able to continue my dream is something you don’t take for granted. I see how my friends wish they had the talent to continue playing at the next level. I always take it to heart and give my all at practice,” Munoz-Alvarez said.
While he has overcome plenty off the field, nothing would compare to the ordeal he would have to deal with early in the season when his father would be detained and wait to be deported to his native country Colombia.
This was a burden that Munoz-Alvarez would carry with him throughout the season. Knowing that while he tried to focus on school and football, his father would be held in a detention center in Adelanto, CA.
Not only did he not know when his father would be deported but would have to remain strong for his five younger siblings.
Late in the season while playing Victor Valley College, Munoz-Alvarez would finally have a chance to visit his father.
Having asked permission to leave from the game to get the chance to see his father again he would be faced with a tough decision on visiting his father or sticking around and helping his team by playing football.
Understanding that football was a big part of his future he made the decision to play.
“I had to make a decision that was really tough, see my dad while he was still here or play for ELAC on Saturday. I talked to my dad about it and he said it was ok,” Munoz-Alvarez said.
That game would end up being one of his best as he scored three touchdowns. The game was covered in the local newspaper and he would find out that his father would read about his big game in the newspaper.
“He would tell all his friends in the detention center about me and my brother. He’s our biggest fan. The following day he would pick up a newspaper and read about it,” Munoz-Alvarez said.
Like most student athletes, Bryan Munoz-Alvarez spends his time between football practice and classes while trying to make time for personal life.
He finds motivation in knowing that his actions serve as positive examples to not only his son but also his younger sisters and brothers.
“ELAC’s been great to me and I’m moving on to the next level. It was an important year for everyone all around, my dad not being here is hard but at the end of the day we do it for him,” Munoz-Alvarez said.
Aspirations of being the first member of his family to graduate from college, while continuing to play football is what drives him forward in his pursuit.
“It’s been fortunate that I have football. Without it I wouldn’t have half of the stuff I have. It’s been my security blanket,” Munoz-Alvarez said.
Life has constantly changed for him but one thing is certain that with every turn he makes adjustments.
That day his mother handed him that flyer and asked him to try out changed his life and provided a sport that would always be there for him in his time of need.
Munoz-Alvarez would stop to reflect, as he would say “From where I started, it has taken me to somewhere I never imagined I would be.”