EDINBURG — Edinburg Vela junior Daniel Enriquez has been playing football all his life.
He thought his time to shine would come on the offensive side of the ball. Little did he know, he would become one of the most important players in every area of the game except offense.
“The last time I played offense was in eighth grade,” Enriquez said. “I played B team quarterback and I thought I was going to go into high school playing wide receiver. That’s what I wanted to be, a receiver. But freshman year, coach Flores told me ‘no you’re going to be our free safety like your brother.’ All of high school I didn’t want to be a safety because I didn’t want to be in my brother’s shadow. But, in the end, it turned out to be a good experience to play alongside him and dominate the Enriquez no fly zone.”
Vela’s secondary was a strong point all year, and while Daniel Enriquez and his brother, senior safety Nick Enriquez, were the headline makers of the bunch, Daniel Enriquez will be the first one to tell you how important everyone in the secondary was.
“Bryly Medina, Bryan Farias, Nick Gomez, Michael Rodriguez, Saul Dominguez and Darreck Encinia, all of them are really good athletes,” Daniel Enriquez said. “They are like right behind us. When we need them, they perform. When me and Nick mess up they have our backs, and when they mess up we get their backs. They are just tremendous athletes all round. Me and Nick couldn’t do what we do without all those guys.”
Still, Daniel Enriquez was a standout among other supreme athletes. This year, he blocked four kicks, intercepted seven balls, returned three of those interceptions for touchdowns and recovered three fumbles. Yet, that is just a part of what he is capable of.
“He is an explosive player,” Vela coach John Campbell said. “We are very fortunate that we will have him back. Daniel did it on the defensive side, but I think what a lot of people started to recognize is the interception returns and the punt returns. He was a versatile, all-over-the-place type of guy. He blocked kicks, he returned punts for touchdowns, he returned interceptions for touchdowns and he played well on defense. Yeah, he basically did everything for us.”
For his all-around play and ability to change the game in so many different ways, Daniel Enriquez is The Monitor’s 2017 All-Area All-Purpose Player of the Year.
“It is a huge honor,” he said. “It shows how hard, not just me, but the whole team worked this year.”
Last year, it was Nick the older brother, who received All-State recognition, but in 2017, Daniel made it onto the All-State honorable mention list for his all-around play.
Daniel Enriquez, Nick Enriquez and senior quarterback Nathan Garcia grew up with each other. They played with and against each other from Pee Wee football all the way to two of the three’s senior years. This season, Garcia has one lasting memory of Daniel Enriquez’s season.
Against Brownsville Hanna in the bi-district round, Daniel Enriquez got the SaberCats on the board first with a 65-yard punt return touchdown. The Golden Eagles didn’t go away though, and the game remained close. With less than a minute left in the first half, Daniel Enriquez picked off sophomore quarterback Victor Campos and took the ball to the house. The score swung the momentum and set up a second half full of even more drama, including another kick blocked by Daniel Enriquez and a game-winning, record-setting 54-yard field goal from senior kicker Austin Garza to keep Vela’s perfect season alive.
“My favorite play of his from this year is probably that pick six against Hanna,” Garcia said. “That was a crazy one. It really changed the game.”
To start the year, the Vela coaches put together a chart for the defensive players. The chart had an intense algorithm that doled out points for different positive defensive plays, like a fumble caused or recovered.
“I think everyone ended up in the positive,” he said. “I was in high positive and they were in the low positive. It’s because I think I got most of the points from my touchdowns.”
After such an exquisite season, it’s hard to imagine what 2018 will look like for Daniel Enriquez. But, he is already thinking about how to top 2017. And the super versatile safety is hoping he gets a taste of his former love: offense.
“I don’t know how you one-up that, but like it just has to be more I guess,” Daniel Enriquez said. “More punt return touchdowns, more pick-sixes, more interceptions, and maybe — maybe — playing on the opposite side of the football.”
The Monitor’s 2017 All-Area Football awards