Tucumcari Rattler Esteban Martinez III is a semifinalist for a high school football Rudy Award, which celebrates outstanding young athletes.
“The youths are selected for their ability to inspire teammates and their support of the local community,” said Sandy Henderson, public information officer for Inspireum, a Bend, Ore., company that is one of the supporters of the award.
Henderson said for three years Inspireum has been searching for the most inspiring kids on high school football teams around the country.
“As I learn more about these kids and their amazing commitment to football, I get a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye,” said John Ballantine, founder of Inspireum. “No matter what they’re faced with or the challenges they overcome … all they want to do is play football. They share their courage with us every day, and we’re honored to present their stories to America.”
Henderson said Esteban was nominated by his mother, who shared Esteban’s courage in overcoming abuse to become the person he is today.
“I was told about the award by a friend, who knew what we had been through,” said Victoria Martinez.
Martinez said her son was the victim of abuse when he was younger. She would not go in to detail about the abuse, though she said her friend urged her to share what happened.
“It was the hardest thing in the world to put to paper what my son had endured,” Martinez said. “Though it is wonderful to see him as strong as he is now.”
Martinez said she did not let the abuse hinder Esteban in any way.
“We’ve never let him quit anything,” Martinez said. “He is determined to do great things, and that is what we expect from him.”
Today, Esteban is a member of the Rattlers football team. He also participates in Rattler wrestling, baseball and mixed martial arts at Cullum Ground Fighting.
“I participate in community cleanups and even coached a youth football team this year,” Esteban said.
“Esteban has the integrity, honesty, work ethic and leadership ability you don’t often see in teenagers,” said Coach Bryan Dunlap.
Esteban said he was shocked and honored to learn of his selection for the award.
“I didn’t know until a few minutes before this interview,” Martinez said. “It’s an honor to be selected for this award. Especially coming from such a small community.”
Martinez is one of 50 semifinalists selected from more than 350 national candidates. Ultimately, four athletes are selected to receive a $7,500 college scholarship from Trusted Sports Foundation.
“A scholarship would be a huge help,” Esteban said. “I want to attend college and study in medicine.”
The top 12 will be selected on Dec.11 and announced in PARADE Magazine. The winner of the High School Football ‘Rudy’ Awards will be announced on Jan. 15.
The awards are named after Daniel ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger, a Notre Dame football player and subject of the movie “Rudy,” who suffered from dyslexia but didn’t learn or realize it until his second year of college. His dream was to play football at Notre Dame, where he qualified for the university’s practice team against the varsity squad. But he didn’t play in in regularly scheduled games.
In Ruettiger’s last opportunity to play for Notre Dame at home, Coach Dan Devine had him dress and put him into a game as defensive end against Georgia Tech on Nov. 8, 1975. Ruettiger participated in two plays. In the final play of Ruettiger’s senior season with the Fighting Irish, he sacked the Georgia Tech quarterback and was was carried off the field by his teammates following the game — one of only two Notre Dame players ever to be carried of the field by teammates.
A complete list of the Top 50 semifinalists can be found online at www.HighSchool