R.J. Garza a driven young man on mission


R.J. Garza a driven young man on mission

On two fronts, R.J. Garza is on a mission.

The first is getting Roma High School in South Texas to the playoffs for the first time ever – a span of 25 years. “We were 6-4 last season, and that was the first winning record my school’s ever had,” Garza said. “This season, I’m looking forward to making the playoffs.”

Garza will be a senior quarterback for the Gladiators this fall, and the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder is looking to make an even bigger impact after passing for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior, his first full season as Roma’s varsity starter. “At the start of the season, the game was a little fast,” Garza said. “But as the season went on, I settled down and started playing better. I love to throw the ball, but if I have to, I’ll run it. It doesn’t matter. Whatever I have to do to help my team win games, I’ll do it.”

Garza will likely to be asked to carry a heavier load as a senior due to the graduation of running back Orly Solis, who earned Class 4A all-state honors after rushing for 2,453 yards and 29 touchdowns. “I’m just the quarterback and it’s going to take everyone to help us win,” said Garza, who also started two games at QB for the Gladiators as a sophomore. “But now that (Solis) is gone, I’ll put the weight on my shoulders and try to do even more.”

On the second front, Garza is determined to play college football after he exits Roma. He realizes it’s a difficult goal. “I’m down here in a valley of South Texas,” Garza said. “A lot of quarterbacks don’t think they have what it takes to play at the next level. But I want to play quarterback in college because I want to show people that it is possible. It doesn’t matter how big you are or how tall you are. If you have that mindset that you want play in college and you want to play, it will eventually come.”

Nod to NFA

Garza has heard from Abilene Christian University, and even more offers figure to be coming if he keeps improving his game. A member of the Blackshirt Academy, Garza has been training with NFA for two years. “NFA’s helped me a lot,” Garza said. “A lot. When I first started, I think I was doing everything wrong and Coach (JC) Boice guided me through. At the first camp I went to, I was OK. The following year, I kind of blossomed with everything they were teaching me. And it’s been going really good since then.”

Coach Boice raved about Garza’s rapid development and his strong character. “Getting to coach young men like R.J. Garza is why I love my job so much,” Boice said. “R.J. is becoming a very good quarterback, but R.J. is another one of our NFA guys that was not born a great quarterback. But somewhere in his life, he made the decision he was going to do it and that is exactly what he is done. Do it.

“There is nothing we have asked him to do that he has not enthusiastically pursued,” Boice continued. “He is blue-collar through and through and is willing to do the hidden things just as much as the things that everybody sees. And now, through his hard work in the off-season workouts and trainings, he’s built himself into a very effective quarterback. I am so excited for his senior season.”

Garza is equally excited. “I can’t wait for the season,” he said. “I really think we have a good chance to make the playoffs, and that would be something that would make my school proud. And I’m really striving to play college football. That is my goal, to play college football.”


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Scot Gregor is an award-winning sportswriter for the Chicago Daily Herald. In addition to writing about Big 10 and Notre Dame football, Gregor has also covered the White Sox, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls and college basketball. He grew up in Pittsburgh and watched the Steelers rise to prominence in the 1970s. Gregor has a B.S. degree in Journalism from Ohio University