The Hispanic Texas High School Football Coaches Association seeks to grow the game for aspiring Hispanic coaches.

Former NFL quarterback and head coach of the Oakland Raiders Tom Flores is a trailblazer in the sport of football.

In 1960, Flores became the first Hispanic quarterback to start in the NFL. And 21 years later, Flores became the first Hispanic head coach to win a Super Bowl as he led the Raiders to a championship. Earlier this week, he was named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In Texas, there’s a group of Hispanic football coaches who are eager to carry and build on the legacy Hispanic football coaches, like Flores, have left. So they founded the Hispanic Texas High School Football Coaches Association.

What started as an idea between a few coaches a couple of years ago has now grown into a full-fledged organization with more than 600 members and has continued to gain steam on the Texas high school football coaching scene.

But the Hispanic Texas High School Football Coaches Association isn’t merely seeking a foot in the door.

“I think the biggest thing that I say about the organization is that one day, we want to have a seat at the table. But we want to be qualified, and there are a lot of young qualified Hispanic coaches in just this group,” Hispanic THSFB Coaches Association Vice President and North Garland head coach Joe Castillo said.

THE IDEA

Sharpstown head football coach Cirilo Ojeda, Falfurrias head coach Ruben Garcia, Pasadena Dobie assistant coach Sergio Gonzalez, Pearland Dawson defensive line coach Mike Garcia and Buda Hays wide receiver coach Isaac Rodriguez decided to start the Hispanic THSFB Coaches Association and began spreading the word.

“When you have a student population and the majority of the kids are predominantly Hispanic or African-American or Anglo, it helps to have coaches that fit that diversity so the kids have someone to relate to. That doesn’t mean that you have to be that ethnicity to impact kids in a positive way, but it does go a long way when you have similar backgrounds, similar experiences, similar trials and tribulations,” Ojeda said. “That’s what we’re all about, is trying to create the next generation of coaches and fill in that gap where there’s more qualified Hispanic coaches out there for kids to benefit them the most.”

The association turned to Armando Jacinto to serve as its first president for the next three years. Jacinto has been coaching for 33 years with stops at University High School and Austin Travis High School, and is currently in his sixth year as the assistant athletic director at Spring ISD.

“It’s a way to network, talk strategy as in X’s and O’s, talk about leadership and to help guys that are inspired to move up vertically in the coaching world,” Jacinto said. “I really commend the guys for going forward. Not just having the vision, but going forward, getting the organization started and getting the ball rolling.”

Peter Noonan, whose grandparents emigrated from Mexico, is a Hispanic THSFB member and defensive line coach at Plfugerville Hendrickson. While COVID-19 has kept coaches cooped up a bit, Noonan said he’s soaked up information shared through group chats and Zoom meetings.

“We are further along because of the guys that trailblazed before us. I can only wait to get on the field and use the things that I’ve learned from everybody in the room for Friday night and beyond,” he said.

Membership is free and qualifications include being of Hispanic descent; currently a Texas high school football coach, seventh or eighth grade aspiring high school football coach, retired Texas high school football coach, retired or current athletic director; or Hispanic college and NFL coaches that can lend mentorship. Members must also be a member of the Texas High School Football Association.

The Valley is represented by RGV East chair Manny Gomez (Harlingen High head coach) and David Porras, Roma’s offensive coordinator and RGV West chair. Porras said he hopes football coaches across the RGV will join.

“If you look at some of the disparities within the state of Texas as far as head coaches, there are over 800 white coaches, around 140 African-American coaches and around 140 Hispanic coaches in the state of Texas, so there’s a huge disparity. We just want to make sure that we help some of our Hispanic coaches grow and be a part of the table,” Porras said. “It’s a great opportunity to get to know these coaches because I’m able to reach out to them and ask them about different things or how to prepare.”

THE ORGANIZATION

“People brought their own talents in running the organization. The networking really got to where we were able to help each other and everybody started using their talents,” Ojeda said. “We started seeing there’s a lot of buzz out there and we could have a voice and try to get as many people involved as possible.”

The association’s director of finances, Emilio “Milo” Garza, played at PSJA North. After playing college football at Sul Ross, Garza has earned a spot as defensive coordinator at San Antonio Burbank after previous stints at San Antonio Brandeis and Madison.

“You kind of feel alone sometimes. Being on a staff, you might be the only Hispanic or you might just be two Hispanics on the staff. Then you come onto this organization and you realize there’s a lot of Hispanic coaches in the state of Texas and we’re all very knowledgeable at what we do, so it’s awesome to be a part of this,” Garza said.

Former PSJA Memorial assistant coach Marco Regalado, who has built a Twitter following of 14,000-plus with his viral comedic sports videos, is the organization’s social media director. Regalado recently became a running backs coach at Eaton High School in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“I’m originally from the 956; it’s still my area code. But that’s kind of a driving force of why I moved up north, because there’s not a whole lot of Hispanic representation up here in the DFW, so to take that opportunity, I felt it was the right time to do it,” he said.

Rodriguez, a wide receiver coach at Buda Hays High School, serves as the association’s director of membership.

“It feels great because you feel the sense of making a change and impact for our Hispanic culture for other coaches within the state. We brought Juan Castillo in and when he spoke to us, it really opened people’s eyes about what we’re doing here,” Rodriguez said. “It’s grown a lot. At the beginning of the pandemic, I think we had like 200 or so coaches in there and now we’re at 617, so that’s a big deal and a good influx of numbers for sure.”

THE MISSION

“I think the end goal is basically built into our mission where we want to help build and mold the next generation of coaches,” Ojeda said.

Garcia, who coaches D-line at Pearland Dawson, graduated from Galena Park High School on the East side of Houston where the student body was about 85% Hispanic. But his coaching staff only had one coach of Hispanic descent, and that was a soccer coach who helped the football kickers.

“We had some good coaches, but I never had someone that I can look at and say, ‘Man, that guy looks like me. I can do that, too.’ It’s not just for ourselves. We’re doing this for the future coaches that are coming after us,” Garcia said.

Jacinto said he cherishes the opportunity to lead the Hispanic THSF Coaches Association and hopes to see the association grow as its members flourish in the Texas high school football coaching world.

“Hopefully we’re accomplishing the goals we set out to do, which is when opportunities present themselves, these guys will be ready for them and don’t get passed up. I went to 25 interviews before I became a head coach,” Jacinto said. “We want them to know that they’re qualified and they’re going to get a look because they have the knowledge and skills to become head coaches and coordinators and athletic directors, whatever they aspire to be.”

Those looking to join the Hispanic THSF Coaches Association can email HTHSFBCA@gmail.com.

Follow the Hispanic Texas High School Football Coaches Association on Facebook or on Twitter @HispanicTHSF.

bramos@themonitor.com