Valenzuela: The One That Almost Got Away
a few games after the midpoint of this season, he led the North
Coast Athletic Conference in total receiving yards and receiving
yards per game, and was second in receptions and fourth in receiving
touchdowns. In addition, he is one of the leaders in all of Division
III in receiving yards and yards per game; however, when junior
wide receiver Ricky Valenzuela first step foot on Oberlins
campus, he was still a prospective student unaware of what lied
in store for him as a member of the Oberlin College football team.
Even further, he wasnt sure that Oberlin was the best school
for him to attend.
During my trip here, I initially felt it wasnt the right
place for me - I was already homesick on just a weekend trip,
Thankfully, his thoughts occurred at the beginning of the trip,
and his weekend stay was enough to convince him that Oberlin was
his best choice. However, it was more than just coincidence that
brought this diamond in the rough to Oberlin, Ohio. Before transferring
to Oberlin, Valenzuela was a two-year member of a junior college
team in Modesto, Calif., and as chance would have it his head coach
was good friends with Oberlin Head Coach Jeff Ramsey, who is now
in his second year at Oberlin and already has two victories under
My junior college coach and Ramsey are friends, so one day
Coach Ramsey called and we started talking about Oberlin,
Valenzuela said. After a fairly long period of talking over the
phone, Valenzuela finally made the trip to Ohio, viewed the school
and met Ramsey in person. He [Ramsey] made the visit very
interesting, and I just wasnt thinking about football
school was more important in my decision to come to Oberlin,
Ramsey was just one of many coaches of all divisions interested
in adding Valenzuela to their fall rosters, but the Yeomen skipper
stressed that it was the combination of strong educational opportunities
and a rapidly building football program that brought him to Oberlin.
I explained to Ricky that I knew he would receive a top-notch
quality of education, and that if he came here, not only would he
have the ability to play right away but he could even be an All-American,
Without question, Valenzuela could be an All-American candidate,
as he set the pace in receiving this season. Success is hardly a
new thing for him, though. Prior to coming to Oberlin he was the
leading receiver in catches and yards in his two seasons at Modesto,
which was ranked one of the top five junior college football teams
in Northern California. However, Valenzuelas achievements
for the Yeomen thus far have hardly come without adversity.
After the first day of practice I called my mom and had a
plane ticket ready to go home, but I ran into a few teammates, including
[senior co-captain linebacker Sam] Hobi and they convinced me to
stay. Everything here was completely different and new to me here.
At Modesto, it was almost like playing in high school I was
living at home and playing football with some of the same teammates
I had had for almost eight years. Valenzuela said. He added,
Being away from home has been rough, but although its
been a difficult road so far, Im happy where I am.
After Oberlins first win in their last 44 games on Oct. 20,
a day in which the Yeomen convincingly pummeled Kenyon College 53-22,
Valenzuela is certainly now more than happy to be a part of a young,
talented and growing football program. Making the victory absolutely
special for him was the fact that his mom, aunt and sister were
in attendance at Dill Field that Saturday to see history in the
making. After all, Ricky is just one of a strong tradition of football
standouts and fans in his family.
My family is really into football, and they are my biggest
supporters. My brother plays on the defensive line at the University
of Oregon, and hes only a freshman, and my dad was an All-American
at Long Beach State [after transferring from Modesto]. He was drafted
by the Cowboys, but traded to Seattle for Randy White, who was also
a defensive lineman, Valenzuela said.
In addition, his fans arent solely limited to his family.
Said sophomore running back David Lightfoot, Rickys
a D1 athlete playing D3, and first-year
kicker Steve Willever, Hes got the best pair of hands
I have ever seen.
Said senior punter Bob Montag, who played at tight-end his first
three years at Oberlin, of Valenzuela, Hes one of the
most amazing and smartest receivers I have ever seen which
says a lot considering I played with [former Yeomen standout receiver]
Felix Brooks-Church, who set quite a few of Oberlins receiving
records. Although he didnt have any catches, and the stats
might not show it, he played a big part in our win against Kenyon
by drawing attention to himself and opening up the running game.
And, in addition to his players, Ramsey also had had high praise
of Valenzuela. Firstly, Rickys an all around good guy.
On the football field, he has a great feel for the game. He has
the ability to find the open spots, beat the defender in man-to-man
and most importantly pick up the ball, he said.