HARLINGEN — Isaac Alarcón was well known in México for his football skills, but in late April his stardom went through the roof.
Alarcón, 21, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, surprised his more than 20,000 followers on social media by sharing he had been selected as a player for the Dallas Cowboys practice squad as a part of the International Player Pathway Program started by the NFL in 2017.
Along with Alarcón, three other international players will be joining NFL teams. According to the NFL official website, David Bada will join the Washington Redskins, Matt Leo, the Philadelphia Eagles and Sandro Platzgumme, the New York Giants.
Alarcón is the only player from Mexico in this group.
Standing at 6 feet, 6 inches and 320 pounds, Alarcón appears like a perfect offensive lineman but he’s also humble and says his achievements are gifts from God.
Alarcón is known for being a national football champion in México.
He gained a football scholarship to play for the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education.
During his college career he started as a right and left tackle. In 2019, he contributed to the school winning the Mexican college football national championship with “Los Borregos Salvajes.”
In 2016, he helped the México team earn a bronze medal at the Under-19 World Championship held in China.
Evidently, his talent was well known and promising.
The International Player Pathway Program was not unfamiliar to him, in fact he had a close connection to it.
In 2019, Máximo González, another player from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, had the opportunity to be a part of the program and attend the training camp.
“He played in three world cups and he was considered the best defensive lineman in México. He was invited first but they asked him if he knew another Mexican he considered good. He talked about me, told them my height and weight, showed them my videos and gave them my contacts,” Alarcón said.
“Then, around June or July of 2019, the scouts came to Monterrey and invited me and my family for dinner. They gave me the proposal for the next year, but I had just had surgery from a cyst in my back; that worried them,” Alarcón said.
Around December 2019, Alarcón showed just how fast he could run and jump in his native Monterrey during trials.
After two weeks, he received a call congratulating him on entering the program.
“In January, I traveled to Florida to train with them and then the Cowboys selected me, thank God,” he said.“The cool thing about the International Program is you know for sure from nine in the program, four will be selected. That’s how in the end they selected four and thank God I was one of them.”
Alarcón said the feeling was sort of like when you take a test that you studied really hard for but you don’t know if you aced it.
“That’s how it felt. At the beginning I could not believe it, ‘No te cae el veinte,’” he said in Spanish, a common phrase used to say something has not dawned on you. “Now realizing I am an NFL player makes me think I have to start training because of that spot.”
Because of COVID-19, his training was uncertain, but Alarcón said he was supposed to leave for training in late May.
He starts as a reserve, but if luck and fate turns out in his favor, Alarcón can move up on the roster.
Alarcón is still a college student. He has not graduated yet but he said he will. He is studying for a major in engineering — automotive design.
“Since I was a little boy I’ve always liked cars, and it is a career I like very much. They teach you how to create an engine, what fuels to use, etc.,” he said. “I am one of those who believes you have to study and have your career because you can’t run after a ball all your life.”
Still, Alarcón has been doing just that since he was 13 years old.
He’s tried other sports, such as baseball, basketball and boxing, but Alarcón said that wasn’t his forte.
“I don’t think I would have gotten this far in any other sport,” he said.
For him, the best part about football is the companionship.
“From the start, when you are on a team, you take it as a fact you will have 70 friends, 70 brothers. You train with them, they understand what you are going through, how much it costs to put on that helmet,” he said. “It is not a team where just one shines. If you want to win, it depends on everyone, and I like that a lot.”
He started off as a tight end, but changed to offensive lineman in college.
“I noticed it was easy for me to block. I felt stronger. Little by little, we started growing,” he said.
Though Alarcón has gained a fandom and had several interviews for articles, his goal has never been to be famous, he said.
“I like the life I lived before. It’s cool because you get to send a message and people can identify with you and you can help them grow. But fame is not my principal motivation,” Alarcón said.
Football is something his family is accustomed to. He is the second of three brothers who are all football players as well.
“We played for the same team, the three of us. They are super happy for me, but nothing has changed in my house. They say they don’t care I’m an NFL player now, and I like that. We are all the same,” he said.
Alarcón’s talent might be innate but he credits his team “Borregos Salvajes” for paving his skills and endurance.
“Sometimes we would train and people would faint or vomit, but I think I was ready to train in Florida, but it was still hard. We would train five hours a day but I also learned how to study the game,” he said.
Alarcón stayed in Florida for two months and says he knows he will miss his family, the food and his people when he leaves.
“Nothing like home,” he said in Spanish.
In late April, he received a Zoom video call where he was officially congratulated by the Cowboys.
Scott Agulnek, director of Football Communications of the team, spoke for Will McClay, VP of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, in his call to Alarcón.
“Hey, Isaac I wanted to say congratulations to you on behalf of the Jones family, Coach McCarthy and Cowboys Nation. We are excited to have you join us, a player from Mexico,” McClay said in a four-way call with Alarcón, James Cook, and Will Bryce, head of Football Development.
“This is a big deal for Mr. Jones. We wanted to look at players, and he was excited about the opportunity to have you number one, as a player and a prospect of offensive line, and join our group,” McClay said.
“We’ve got the best offensive line in the NFL. We think you’ll be able to learn from that and represent Mexico well. We are proud of our Mexican tradition, Cowboys and Mexico have a long history together. Fifty-four percent of Mexican Americans are Cowboys fans,” he said.
In the video, Alarcón appears nervous but excited. He slowly pulls out a Dallas Cowboys cap from behind him as he speaks to McClay.
“Now for me to be a player with you, it’s like a miracle. I am so grateful, thank you so much for the trust. I promise you will not be disappointed (in) me,” Alarcón said.
For now, his future seems bright, expectations are high, and the team is taking notes.
“From watching your tape and listening to all the guys, I know you have some things that you can help with and we can help you grow. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” McClay said.