Mando Lombrana, whose “real” name is Jose Armando Lombrana is the son of Arturo Lombrana and Betty Marquez. He is also a senior on the Comanche Indian Football team, and I’ve had a camera poked in his face on the sidelines for his entire high school football career. He has to be sick of it, but I just keep assuring him that “someday” he will be glad that he has those photos!
Now, if you know Mando, you know that he can be a little shy or at least not terribly outspoken. Of course, that amazes me since his Uncle Lupe was one of my “other sons” when he was growing up, and I seem to remember wondering if he ever stopped talking! Mando doesn’t know me as well as Lupe does though, and I knew I would have to work for this interview so I began slowly, talking about the one-touchdown loss last week to West.
And then I remembered, and I figured out why we lost this year’s contest with West! We failed to use our trick play…the one that Mando ran last year in the West game.
“It was supposed to be a fake punt. The ball was snapped to me, and I was supposed to pass it. The problem was that I did not see a receiver so I just decided to run it.”
Run it he did, and I ran with him, screaming like a fool (something I do NOT do on the field), running down the sidelines snapping pictures as well as I could. It was my very favorite play of the year. Of course, you have to understand that you just don’t see a 260 pound lineman running the ball every day, and Mando Lombrana didn’t just run it. He picked up about 13 yards and a first down on that play!
And that was the one and only run of the lineman’s football career.
“It is really exciting to be back in the playoffs,” the soft spoken young man admitted. “It’s fun to play teams that we are not used to playing, plus the atmosphere is way better, and the adrenaline pumps.”
Of course, this is his 3rd year to be in playoffs, and he’s been a starter all three years. As I told him, that makes him a veteran when it comes to playoff games, and we are expecting an upset win this year.
“My teammates work together,” Mando went on as if I had not interrupted him, “and we try to keep each other going and motivate each other. The coaches do the same thing every week as they try to prepare us with different plays for the week’s team. The linemen don’t get much glory on each play, but the coaches know what we do, and they are always telling us how good we do.”
And then, I interrupted him again because I had to make sure that he knows how much this old woman appreciates what he and his fellow linemen do. From where I stand in the middle of them all, I am awed every single week at the sheer physicality of their job and how they are simply never off task. I watch them come out of the game time and time again, pure exhaustion on their young faces, and then I see them head back in just minutes later…playing just as hard as they did on their first play of the game.
“So why do you do it?” I asked.
“I guess for what we get out of it at the end…the win.”
“And we can’t win without you,” I felt compelled to add, interrupting once again.
“The O line is very disciplined because we know that without that discipline, the play won’t get off of the ground.”
And, believe it or not, he likes his job on the field… very much.
“I like being a lineman because I like being one of the biggest guys on the field, and as for the game itself, I like getting to go out there and play a game that not many people ever get to play.”
But that’s not his favorite thing about the game. His answer to that question was a total surprise to me, and one that should make one coach’s chest swell with pride.
“The one thing I really like before every game is Coach Wyatt’s pregame speech. Before a game we go over our coverages and stuff with him and then at the end, he gives a ‘pumped up’ speech. That’s my favorite thing.”
And what more could any coach wish than this one simple answer? I don’t have a clue what kind of “pumped up” speeches Wyatt gives, but whatever they are, they have made an impression on a life. That’s something a coach can hang his hat (or in this case, his helmet) on!