The Power of Graceland’s Alumni Network Recruits Five Football Student-Athletes from the Same High School in Santa Rosa, Texas

The Power of Graceland’s Alumni Network Recruits Five Football Student-Athletes from the Same High School in Santa Rosa, Texas

(from left to right) alumni Zeke Montez ‘04, Pablo de los Santos '02, Abel Fonseca '04, Michelle (Acosta) Fonseca ‘04, John Anthony Hernandez ‘08

The power of the Graceland University alumni connection is often referenced as a benefit to Graceland students, but the power of that network reaches far beyond the great mentorships and support our students receive. Sometimes – and maybe more often than you might think – the power of that network actively recruits students for Graceland. That is definitely the case in an impressive story that comes out of Santa Rosa, Texas, this spring.

Pablo de los Santos came to Graceland in the fall of 1996 from Brownsville, Texas, to play football for the Yellowjackets. He graduated with an education degree and coaching endorsement in 2002, and after a couple coaching jobs in the Midwest, he then returned home to Texas, where he is now the defensive coordinator for the Santa Rosa Warriors. De los Santos has sent several student-athletes to Graceland over the years, but this year was especially notable.

Adam Cavazos, Ethan De La Garza, Jose Ruiz, Michael Bermea and Ryan Garza are headed to Graceland from Santa Rosa High School to play football this fall – four of them also plan to play baseball – and it was all at the urging of de los Santos, who says “Graceland changed my life in a positive way, and I wanted them to have that same opportunity to succeed.”

“These are good kids,” continued de los Santos. “I think they can help the Graceland program, and I just want to give back. I owe a lot to Graceland. The people there treated me really well, and everyone is willing to help you out. Even the process of getting these students accepted happened really fast and was so easy. Thanks to Graceland Admissions and the coaches for all they did to make this happen.”

De los Santos’ introduction to Graceland as a student-athlete also happened because of the power of the Graceland alumni network. His own high school football coaches had graduated from Graceland and were the influence that helped him make the trip to Iowa to play ball. “Mike Burget ‘91 and Chuck Milham ‘90 were big influences in my life as a high school football player,” shared de los Santos. “They are the reasons I went to Graceland, and if I can be an influence that leads to a college degree for some of these students I get to coach, then I can feel good about what I do.”

On a special signing day in Santa Rosa earlier this month for Cavazoz, De La Garza, Ruiz, Bermea and Garza, the power of Graceland’s alumni network showed up again, as de los Santos invited friends and fellow alumni who also live in the Brownsville area to come support the future Yellowjackets. Michelle (Acosta) ‘04 and Abel Fonseca ‘04, Zeke Montez ‘04 and John Anthony Hernandez ‘08 all joined de los Santos to show their support for the next generation of Graceland alumni as they take their first steps toward becoming part of arguably one of the strongest alumni networks out there.

Graceland University alumni pose with five Santa Rosa Graceland football recruits
Graceland alumni pose with future Yellowjackets at a signing ceremony in Santa Rosa, Texas.