McALLEN — There isn’t much that can keep Josiah Alonzo away from the gridiron.

Alonzo, who’s from a football family, learned the game from an early age watching his older brother and his dad, a football coach at Cathey Middle School in McAllen, patrol the sidelines and learned firsthand the strength required to overcome real adversity.

“Growing up, playing in college was just a dream. Football is something that runs in my family. My brother played and went through a bunch growing up,” Alonzo said. “He’s been the main reason why I knew I could do a lot of things with Christ because he was diagnosed with cancer growing up and he had the chance to play football at Lindenwood in Bellville, Illinois, so I knew after he went through that and overcame that adversity to play ball. It just gave me a spark knowing that I can go through anything to play.”

It’s a lesson that Alonzo took to heart, vowing to let nothing stand between him and his time under the Friday night lights.

The Warriors senior worked tirelessly to become one of the Valley’s most fearsome defenders, a defensive captain and now a college football player after Alonzo, surrounded by his coaches, family and friends, signed his national letter of intent to continue his academic and football career at Sul Ross State in West Texas at a signing ceremony Wednesday evening in front of McAllen Rowe High School.

“I like to go out a lot, so being out in front of people somewhere new sounded appealing. My brother told me it was fun when he took off for Illinois, so I said, ‘Well why can’t I do that?’” Alonzo said. “I’m not afraid to be away from home and I just wanted to try something new. I’m leaving some people behind here, but it’s a new adventure I want to go through. Playing college ball is the No. 1 thing I can do, and I want to thank Sul Ross for the opportunity to continue my academic and athletics career over there.”

Despite being initially undersized when he first joined the Warriors football program, Alonzo quickly proved he had the work ethic and analytical mind to thrive in the middle of Rowe’s 4-3 defense.

One of the great students of the game, Alonzo made film studying his obsession always trying to stay ahead of the litany of different offensive schemes in District 30-6A and always looking for an edge for himself and his teammates.

“I feel like I was the quarterback of the defense. I took that initiative and I’m a team player, so I knew that film was everything. As bad as it sounds, sometimes I would take peek in class,” Alonzo said. “To our defensive coordinator, coach (Oscar) Torres, film was taken really seriously at Rowe and that was knowing the schemes that offense would run. We can’t just know one thing for the whole year, it was one week after the next learning something new every week.”

Alonzo encountered another roadblock toward the end of his junior year when a spring ball injury threatened to keep him off the field for the start of his senior season.

“It was very hard, but I knew I could live up to it. During spring ball last year, I tore my meniscus, so three weeks before our first game against Weslaco High I had to have surgery. It was something that if I could do it, I could show my team how adversity comes and how to overcome it,” he said. “They depended on me a lot because they knew I had the teamwork and I always put ‘we’ above ‘me.’ I never put myself before them because I know if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be in the spot I am today because of all their help. I fed off that too and it made my job easier when they tell me if I did something. Working together was a big key in our season this year.”

It was an optimistic approach that proved to be especially impactful for the Warriors, who were bit hard and often by the injury bug during the 2019 season.

Alonzo, nevertheless, stepped up across the board acting as the glue guy who helped keep Rowe’s season in-tact. The senior middle linebacker and defensive captain helped lead the Warriors to a 5-0 start and clinch the team’s first postseason berth in two years.

The Rowe senior earned a Second Team All-District selection and was selected as a 2020 West Valley all-star by the RGV Coaches Association after he helped lead the Warriors to their first bi-district football championship in more than a decade.

He tallied 50 tackles for the Warriors on the season to go along with six tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, an interception and countless pass deflections. Alonzo recorded huge, game-saving takeaways in Rowe wins over Mercedes and McAllen High, and the senior even filled in at wide out when the Warriors’ offense was decimated by injury.

“It feels really good. I guess we didn’t get to finish (our senior year) out on a full note, but we did with that title,” Alonzo said. “Football is the thing that I feed off of and I wish we could have finished the school year off better, but knowing we got the metal makes it feel better. We hope that Rowe can keep doing it, but we know we left our mark on it and we set an example for the next Rowe team. We marked our accomplishments.”

But the most memorable part of Alonzo’s senior season? Being able to play his final high school season in front of his brother and show that he too could not be kept from the game he loved.

“It was really good,” he said. “He’s been there for me since Day 1 and growing up, he never got to see me play until my senior year because he was up there in college all four years. To have him here my senior year was the best thing.”

amcculloch@themonitor.com