ON SPORTS: Built Ford Tough football players driven to succeed (w/video)
Feb. 12, 2014 at 11:02 p.m.
Updated Feb. 11, 2014 at 8:12 p.m.
Travis Quintanilla was holding a No. 34 jersey when he walked into Refugio athletic director and head football coach Jason Herring's office Monday morning.
But it wasn't one of the Refugio jerseys Quintanilla wore during his four years on the varsity.
Instead, it was a white Dallas Cowboys jersey with his name on the back.
"When he came in and showed me that jersey, it was like a little kid that just opened a Christmas present," Herring said. "He said, 'Coach, coach, look at this; it's got may name on it.' You would have never known that he was the 2A Player of the Year or any of that. He was fired up about a Cowboys jersey he just got."
Quintanilla and Goliad senior Dalton Sturm picked up their personalized Cowboys jerseys in the team's locker room at AT&T Stadium in Arlington after Saturday's Built Ford Tough High School Football Player of the Year banquet.
Quintanilla, Sturm and Yoakum's Tre'Vontae Hights were among the 10 weekly winners in their respective classifications during the 2013 season.
Quintanilla won the Class 2A Player of the Year Award, which was presented by Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr.
"It's an honor," Quintanilla said. "I've been thinking about it since I knew that I was going to come to the banquet. It's a great experience to come up here and be a part of something like this. Being in the Cowboys locker room with all those great athletes who are here is an honor. To win the award is even greater."
Quintanilla earned the award by passing for a 5,557 yards and 68 touchdowns, both state records, during his senior season while leading the Bobcats to the Division II state final.
Quintanilla also led Refugio the 2011 Division II state championship as a sophomore, set a state record with 10 touchdown passes in a game as a junior, and finished his career by setting state records for career passing yards (14,223) and career touchdown passes (184).
"Once in a lifetime you get a chance to coach someone who is really, really special," Herring said. "We get to coach a lot of great kids. There's no doubt athletically and what Travis has done for our football team, our town and our program is a once-in-a-lifetime type deal."
Quintanilla and Sturm joined the other weekly winners in posing for pictures for the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and took a tour of the stadium while their highlights played on the giant video board.
"It was a great experience for me," Sturm said. "I've never been to AT&T Stadium. Just going through it and being with all the great athletes going to D-I and breaking all these records. Being a part of that and on being on that list is a great honor to me."
Sturm accounted for 2,765 yards and 34 touchdowns passing and rushing during his senior season. He scored 159 points while leading the Tigers to their first playoff win since 1997.
"There's no doubt that he is leader," said Goliad athletic director and head football coach John Mares. "He's the type of kid who when everyone would get down, he would keep you up. He would handle the bad times. He was keeping everybody fired up. A kid like that, you hate to see him go. He's going to bigger and better things."
Neither Sturm nor Quintanilla received an offer from a Division I school.
Quintanilla will attend Texas A&M-Kingsville on a football/baseball scholarship, and Sturm will be a preferred walk-on at Texas-San Antonio.
But both were motivated by Carr, who attended Division II Grand Valley State in Michigan.
Carr is entering his seventh NFL season and third with the Cowboys.
"It gives you one heck of a chip," Carr said. "You've just got to get a foot in the door. I stayed focused on my vision and my devotion for this game."
The Built Ford Tough Player of the Year trophies Quintanilla brought home to Refugio will likely inspire future Bobcats.
"You're talking about a little 2A kiddo that grew up in Refugio and did the same thing all these little kids do," Herring said. "He went to Stricklin primary, played for the Bobkittens in junior high and then turned into all everything. So it's tangible.
"For every little kid that's growing up that has dreams of playing college football or being the Built Ford Tough Player of the Year or all-state, it's right there. A normal one of us did it."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at advosports.com