Becker’s Sanchez changes from quitter to leader
By John Conceison TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
Midway through his junior season in high school, Luis Sanchez walked away from the game.
“I knew football since I was about 2 years old, started playing in pads when I was 8,” said Sanchez, who thought there may have been some burnout and some personal issues, but “I think I tried to make other excuses for it.”
“Now it’s all about football,” declared Sanchez, now a co-captain at Becker College and a sure-handed wide receiver.
After graduating from Central High in Springfield in 2007, Sanchez studied at Holyoke Community College.
“At that time, my heart really wasn’t in it,” he said. “I really didn’t have a love for the game, but after about a year or two, I really started to miss it. I went to some games and it hit me I might have made the wrong decision, that maybe I should’ve stuck with it.”
While at Holyoke, high school classmate Rafael Martinez, then a freshman lineman at Becker, approached him.
“He told me I would have a chance to start here,” said Sanchez, who liked the sound of that. He enrolled at Becker, and is happy he did — as are the Hawks.
“Luis is a special kid,” second-year Becker coach Mike Lichten said. “He’s worked for everything he’s had and gotten in his whole life, nothing’s been handed to him. He started out as a community college kid, just trying to get an education and better himself. He was lucky enough to transfer here to Becker, and he’s been here making a large impact ever since.”
“There’s a difference between guys who played since they were really young, going all the way through into college all the way and some guys who have missed a couple of years,” Sanchez said. “There’s much more of an appreciation. When I got here, I worked my butt off and really paid attention.”
Last season, Sanchez had 33 catches for 516 yards and a touchdown, positive numbers during a rough 1-9 season for the Hawks.
“Luis is deceptively fast — usually, guys that size (6 feet, 180 pounds) don’t have that breakaway speed, sometimes they have difficulty cutting,” Lichten said. “He finds space and runs his routes with great precision.
“As a player, what most defines him is his work ethic and his focus to detail and his leadership qualities. His skill set is very high for a Division 3 player, but his mental capacity is that for a Division 1 athlete.”
While Sanchez couldn’t be found on the field four years ago, he can’t be pulled off it today. After graduating, the sports management major wants to pursue a master’s degree and teach and coach football, hopefully on the high school level.
“Working with high school students, you have the most potential to mold minds,” said Sanchez, who has had conversations with Central High, his alma mater, about assisting there. “They’re a little bit mature, but they’re not yet there in what they want to do, so you can help steer them toward a better path.”
Sanchez has gotten so much more out of Becker than football. Last year, he interned in the sports information office under director Matt Tittle, completing his required hours in a little more than a month. There, he specialized in video production, learning to edit and break down tape that comes in so handy when coaching.
And last spring, he even made his stage debut, inspired by another high school friend studying theater in New York. He played the role of Angel in Becker’s production of the musical “Rent.”
“He’s a captain, a kid who puts up good receiving numbers, who works hard, blocks and does his job and keeps the team in check,” Lichten said, “but he’s such a presence on campus and such a contributor to our Becker community.
“When he leaves here, he really will make Becker a better place from when he first found it.”
Courtesy of Worcester Telegram & Gazette