When Colts punter Rigoberto Sanchez met Cynthia, they were students at a community college in California.
He was a football player.
She was a soccer player.
“We met in study hall at Butte College and he was like, ‘Hey, you should come out to one of my games,’” Cynthia said. “And I’m like, ‘I don’t really know football.’”
He convinced her to come anyway.
“When I was there, all of the fans were like, ‘Man, he’s so good.’ I was like, ‘Hey, apparently you’re really good.’ Rigo is so humble. He was like, ‘Oh, I’m alright.’”
His ego was small, but his dreams were big - and she believed in him from the start.
"He was like, ‘I want to make it pro and there’s no pro team around here - so you best believe I’m going to leave this town one day. I’m just letting you know,” she said. “I think it was really mature on his part to tell me, ‘Hey, if we’re going to start a relationship, this is what it’s going to look like.’ I was like, ‘Any way I can help.’”
Little did she know, he’d take her up on it.
“One day, he was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to go train. Do you want to go?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah. Let’s go!’”
“I remember asking her if she wanted to come along and she didn’t hesitate,” he said. “Usually, at the beginning of a relationship you want to hang out with your partner. But I was always responsible. I still had to do my job.”
At first, training together was an opportunity to pursue both of his goals - playing football and seeing Cynthia.
As days became weeks and months, what Sanchez found in Cynthia was more than a love interest - she was a teammate in every sense of the word.
“In the beginning, she was shagging balls for me, tossing me the ball and stuff like that,” he said. “I knew she was coachable, so I’d be like, ‘Try to throw it a little bit towards my hip’ and she’d adjust like any other athlete. She never hesitated to try anything I asked her to do.”
When he transferred to Hawaii, Cynthia went with him. When he landed an opportunity with the Colts, she came to Indy and supported him every step of the way.
“We had an apartment and our apartment had nothing - no table, no couch, no bed, nothing,” she said. “All we had were two pillows and a comforter.”
The NFL was a long shot for Sanchez, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent on a team that had just signed a veteran punter.
But he wasn’t worried about anyone else. Sanchez was chasing his own dream - and Cynthia will never forget the day it came true.
“He called and he said, ‘Hey, I just want you to know I love you. I want you to be the first one to know. It’s going to be all over the media and I want you to hear it from me.’”
Her stomach dropped.
“I thought he was going to make the team, but for a split second, I was like, ‘Did they let him go? Is he coming home to me right now?’ And he was like, ‘They released the other punter.’ And I was like, ‘Rigo, are you telling me that they picked you?’ And he said, ‘Yeah. It’s time to go to work.’”
And that’s what they did.
As Sanchez fine tuned his skills, so did Cynthia.
“When I used to snap it, it was just an underhand snap. Now, I actually get down like Luke and throw it between my legs. He even showed me how to rotate the ball, how to spin it, and I’m supposed to hop back. He was talking to me about it and I was like, 'Let’s just try it.’ And it came out pretty good.”
“I actually tell Luke (Rhodes), ‘You better watch out. Cynthia’s coming for your job,’” Sanchez laughed.
Sometimes, she even watches film with him.
“She’ll peek in here and there and I’ll explain why I catch the ball a certain way or why I do this or that,” he said. “She knows a lot more than people would think.”
And on game day, it shows.
“It’s funny because when he comes out to punt, a lot of people are like, ‘Oh, the play is dead. We’re giving it away.’ But that’s my moment. I’m focused. I’m quiet. I’m like, ‘Ok God, Please help him.’”
Sanchez can’t hear her on the field, but he hears about her from others.
“People tell me all the time, ‘I can’t believe how much comes out of that little thing. She’s screaming and yelling when you’re punting, ‘Yeah! Good punt!’”
In 2017, Sanchez set an NFL record for net punting average by a rookie (42.6 yards). Season after season, he’s continued to impress. And he’s not shy about sharing his secret.
“So much credit to her - she’s always behind the scenes, she’s helping me out, she’s supporting me emotionally and physically, and she’s always there. It’s the little things that people don’t see, but it’s freaking awesome. She’s my backbone.”
At the end of his rookie season, Sanchez made Cynthia an offer - to be his teammate for life.
This spring, they made it official.
And when they returned to Indianapolis, the Colts made him an offer - to be their teammate for four more years. It was a pleasant surprise, one he was happy to share with his new wife.
“I told her, ‘I didn’t do this by myself. You helped me out. It was a process and you were there for most of it.’ She was actually there for a lot of the hard part - from Butte College to Hawaii when I didn’t know where I was going to go.”
As unpredictable as life is, football is even more so.
But Sanchez knows wherever he goes, Cynthia will be right beside him.
“I always tell her thank you and thanks for being there for me. Sometimes, she probably thinks I just say it - but I mean it,” he said.
Whether it’s in the stands or with the ball in her hands, Cynthia Sanchez is more than Rigo’s wife - she’s also his practice partner, his secret weapon, and his biggest cheerleader.
“I don’t think I’ve been more proud of anything in my life,” she said. “It’s amazing because he’s such a sweet person - wholehearted, loves with no fear, learns with no limit. He’s a little bit of everything for me.”
Two college kids with a dream, Rigo and Cynthia make a great team.
And together, they strive to get better every day.