YAKIMA, Wash. -- A lot of times a coach or a reporter will describe a player as “always the last one” to leave the practice field, or the weight room, or the gymnasium. Often, it’s simply a way of complimenting the athlete’s work ethic.
With Diego Delgadillo, it’s not an exaggeration. He is the last to leave ... perhaps because he was, in a way, late to arrive.
The Grandview junior didn’t play team sports as a kid. No Grid Kids. What he knew about football was what he saw on television, right up until he took up the sport in middle school. He showed promise as a running back, but in the summer prior to his sophomore year — when he was fully expecting not only to make the varsity but to make an impact — that disappeared in an instant.
It was just a play at football camp. He even remembers the call: “It was a 24 dive,” recalls Delgadillo, who was a fullback blocking on the play.
Delgadillo, a compact 5-foot-9, 170-pounder, made what he remembers as “a bad block” and felt something that felt like his right shoulder popped out. He had torn the cartilage connected to the clavicle — the collarbone — and was told by doctors he had no chance of playing football that fall.
Or, for that matter, for getting a good night’s sleep.
For months, he recalls, “I slept on the couch pretty much every night, sort of sitting up. Any time I lay down, it hurt a lot.”
What hurt even more, at least emotionally, was that for the next five months Delgadillo couldn’t lift weights. He wasn’t allowed to. And all he could do for his football team was from the sidelines and cheer his teammates on.
“It was extremely frustrating,” he says, noting that he lost “pretty much all” of his muscle mass and tone, especially on his right side. Even after he began his physical rehabilitation, for a while weights were forbidden and he was stuck to working his shoulder and arm muscles with “those rubber-band things.”
Now? You can’t get him out of the weight room or off the practice field.
“He always has to be the last person off the field, the last person out of the weight room,” Greyhounds coach Rick Ramos says, noting that even when Ramos is about to close up the weight room and he’s already done his see-ya-laters with the remaining players, Delgadillo won’t actually leave until Ramos is literally locking the door.
“It’s just the kind of person I am,” Delgadillo says. “I’ve been that way since I was a kid, been going to weight rooms for a while now.”
But in being the last guy in any workout venue, is that to prove something to himself, to his coaches, or to someone else?
“I don’t know,” he says. “I’ve always had this mentality to work hard. I guess I got it from my parents; they’re the same way.”
This year Delgadillo will probably start both ways for the Greyhounds, at fullback and at a hybrid linebacker-cornerback. If he’s also on special teams, he’ll pretty much never leave the field.
At least, not until after everybody else has.