Rigoberto Sanchez stood on the field at the Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield on Monday evening.
Behind him were some of his Colts teammates and in front of him were kids from the Indiana Latino Institute.
“Todos hablan Espanol?” he asked them.
“Si!” they responded enthusiastically.
“Muy bien,” he said.
As their faces lit up, he went on to engage them in a conversation.
“I started speaking Spanish and they were looking at me like, ‘Man, this guy can actually do this?’” he said. “I was asking them what kind of things they like to do. I pretty much explained that it’s important to play at least 60 minutes a day.”
The kids were there as guests of the Colts and their partner, Morales Group Staffing, to kick off National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15th to October 15th.
“We’re Hispanic owned and we like to sponsor anything that’s Hispanic proud,” said President and COO Seth Morales. “Any time we can give back to the community and help bring football and the Hispanic-Latino community together, it makes sense.”
Sanchez said it’s important for kids to see themselves represented by their team – and for the Hispanic community, the Colts punter is happy to be that guy.
“I think it’s one of those pride things for them,” he said. “I spoke to a few of the families when we had training camp here at Grand Park and they’re all pretty excited, they’re all rooting for me because of where I come from and because of where my parents come from. So, it’s pretty exciting.”
His parents came to the U.S. from Mexico. They settled in California where they met and where he grew up.
Like many of the kids at the camp, Sanchez grew up in a bilingual household.
“I understand how it is growing up speaking both languages – going to school and learning English and coming back home and speaking Spanish.”
It’s something he’s continued to do, even as an adult.
“I speak Spanish to my fiancée. That way in the future when we have kids, I’m able to teach them.”
PHOTOS: Community Monday - Hispanic Heritage Month Football Camp Presented By Morales Group
The Indianapolis Colts invited youth to participate in a special Hispanic Heritage Month Football Camp on Monday, September 25, at Grand Park. During this camp, the youth had the opportunity to meet Colts players, learn about the importance of staying active and participate in six different football stations.
For the kids in attendance, Monday night was all about fun.
Joined by Colts cheerleaders and Colts mascot, Blue, Sanchez and his teammates, Matthew Adams, Matthias Farley, Kenny Moore and Jabaal Sheard, led the kids in some stretching exercises, jumping jacks, and pushups before running them through football stations.
The cheerleaders showed off some of their dance moves – and learned some new ones from the kids.
“It gives them a break. It gives us a break. We’re just excited to be here,” Sanchez said. “It’s our day off. But you know, it’s an opportunity for us to be there for them – so, we’re going to do that.”
It was also an opportunity to inspire them.
“I told my fiancée, ‘This is my chance to go talk to them, deliver a message to them, let them know that everything is possible,’” he said. “I think it’s an inspiration for them to know that they could one day make it too.”
And when they do?
“It’s almost a religion for you to remember where you come from,” he said. “You’ve got to be prideful about where you come from.”
Sanchez hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
And neither has Morales.
“We’re trying to build a better future one story at a time,” he said. “So, this is a wonderful way to give back and pour into our youth and let them rise up.”
“Let’s do Colts on three,” Sheard yelled to the kids huddled around him.
“One, two, three… COLTS!”
The best way to honor a culture's past is to invest in its future.
And that's what the Colts did on Monday night.