KINGSVILLE — Texas A&M-Kingsville first-year head football coach Michael Salinas just wrapped up his first National Signing Day with the Javelinas earlier this week, and the Javelinas’ haul includes six Rio Grande Valley standouts.

Salinas, a former head coach of top RGV programs like Edinburg Vela and Weslaco High, was named the 12th head coach in the Javelinas’ football program history Dec. 20, 2019.

Former Edinburg Vela head coach Michael Salinas leads the SaberCats in practice in this file photo. The Monitor Photo.

While Salinas and his staff had about two and a half weeks to hit the road and recruit, he’s excited about the class the Javelinas signed.

“I’m really pleased and happy with the effort of our staff. I thought with time constraints, we did a good job and we’re excited about the class that we just signed,” Salinas said.

With six Valley players headed to TAMUK, the challenge will be tough, but one Salinas knows plenty about.

Salinas himself made a successful transition from a quarterback at Edinburg High during the 1990s to the next level playing for the Javelinas.

“It’s going to be a tough transition for them, but they’re going to have to stay the course — there’s a process in place,” Salinas said. “Some are going to be ready earlier than others, but how they utilize their time between now and August and their first year of development is going to determine how fast they get onto the field. The faster they get on the field, the better for us as it proves that we picked the right young men.”

Those six young men taking their game from football fields across the RGV up north 1 hour and 45 minutes to Javelinas Stadium in Kingsville this fall each emerged while leading their respective high school teams to success.

“We believe in development and mentorship, but if you can get some guys that are active leaders on their football teams and quality, not only football players but young men, I think it helps in the process,” Salinas said.

High-character, academic ability and great football players are what Salinas and his staff were searching for, and he believes he has just that in his 2020 recruiting class that includes six RGV products.

Weslaco High quarterback Jacob Cavazos will reunite with his former head coach as he played two years under Salinas for the Panthers during the 2017-2018 seasons.

During his senior year, Cavazos threw for 2,028 passing yards and rushed for 1,229 yards, compiling 39 total touchdowns for a Panthers team that reached the third round of the Class 6A state playoffs. He was voted District 31-6A’s Offensive MVP and named The Monitor’s First-Team All-Area quarterback.

Weslaco High quarterback Jacob Cavazos. Photo: Weslaco ISD.

Joining Cavazos and Salinas Kingsville are five more RGV players who stood out during their time on the field.

Edinburg Vela’s Kevin Rojas proved to be one of the top pass-catchers in the Valley, earning first-team all-district honors as a receiver. Rojas had a highlight reel senior year for the SaberCats, finishing with 69 receptions, 967 receiving yards and 14 touchdown catches, including seven scores in Vela’s three playoff games in 2019. Rojas will look to become a reliable target at the next level as a Javelina.

Weslaco East kicker Gilbert Garza was among the most clutch players across the RGV and now he’ll try to do the same for the Javelinas. Garza and the Wildcats also reached the third round of the playoffs as the senior kicker was successful on 36 of 38 extra point attempts, and 4 of 6 on field goals with a long of 46 yards for 48 total points. Garza has multiple game-winners to his name.

PSJA North’s safety Seven Sanchez was a terror in the Raiders’ secondary as he racked up 158 total tackles, 10 passes deflected, eight tackles for loss, four sacks, nine hurries, four forced fumbles, one interception and one fumble recovery. Sanchez was named the District 30-6A Defensive MVP, The Monitor’s 2020 All-Area Defensive Player of the Year, and adds a fearless mindset to the Javelinas’ 2020 recruiting class.

PSJA North safety Seven Sanchez. Photo: PSJA ISD.

Another natural leader headed to TAMUK is McAllen Rowe quarterback Jonas Ortiz. As a senior, Ortiz threw for 2,201 yards, ran for 587 yards and accounted for 28 total TDs, leading his Warriors to a first round playoff upset of Laredo Alexander.

Brownsville Pace’s Rafael Recio earned the honor of District 16-5A DI’s Offensive Lineman of the Year, and now he’s headed to Kingsville. Recio’s Vikings nearly took down Corpus Christi Miller in the first round of the playoffs as the tackle cleared way for the playmakers in the Pace backfield.

Salinas said each player added can be successful at the next level for the Javelinas.

“I think they were excited and I think every one of those kids from the Valley that we signed, all six of them, wanted to play college football, and this is an opportunity I think they’re appreciative for. If we did our homework correctly, I think all six of those guys are going to be successful here for us in the next four or five years,” Salinas said.

Texas A&M-Kingsville will kick off its 2020 season against Colorado State University-Pueblo on Sept. 5 at Javelina Stadium in Kingsville.