ERWIN, Tenn. (WJHL) — In our digital series ‘High School Standouts,’ Digital Sports Reporter Michael Epps features local athletes with incredible talent, hoping to take that talent to the next level.
These are athletes that stand out both on and off the field.
This week’s High School Standout is Miguel Vasquez, a senior three-sport athlete at Unicoi County High School.
Communication is crucial for a soccer team’s success.
The Unicoi Co. boys soccer team understands that and even uses a completely different language!
“It gives us a really big advantage because if we play against people that don’t speak Spanish we can do whatever we want with them we say hey go long or come back to me without them knowing and it helps us beat them in a sense of they don’t understand what we’re doing,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez knows this is part of their team chemistry. As a senior captain, he makes sure everyone’s on board even if they don’t speak Spanish.
“Like Matthew, he’s not Hispanic at all, but he’s caught on to what we say and he learns and if we tell him hey go long in Spanish he will go long once you start playing with us and you get used to us especially since we’ve all played together since we were little they just learn as we learn,” Vasquez said.
“We have a great Hispanic population here, I can say nothing but great things about them and their culture when they’re out on the field they communicate well and seem to just enjoy the game,” Unicoi Co. assistant boys soccer coach Jason Hensley said.
He’s played soccer since he was a kid but started playing football in the 8th grade. He didn’t need to bring Spanish with him on the field but he brought quite a leg.
“They didn’t have a kicker and everything was onside kicks because nobody could kick and I came in and kicked it and everybody was like sheesh so that’s when I started being the kicker ever since 8th grade and Coach Rice came down to the middle school and talked to me and told me to kick for him,” Vasquez said.
So along with playing some running back and linebacker, he was the kicker for Unicoi Co. High School all four years. He broke the school record for most extra points in a single season with 49 in his junior year, the 2019 season, and eventually broke the career record with 65 made PAT’s.
“I was nervous at first because there’s a lot of pressure on you especially if it’s at the very end of the game and it depends on you but after a while I started practicing every day and for some reason with footballs I can’t kick them super far but I can kick them accurately but on the other side soccer balls I just send those things,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez is also on the Track & Field team, competing in shotput and discus, the 100m and other events. He plays the soccer and track & field seasons at the same time here in the spring.
“Kind of stressful because I had to drive from track meet to soccer games never rode the bus because I was separate and didn’t know if I was going to make it on time but overall it was fun playing with friends and stuff,” Vasquez said.
But that’s just the beginning. He switches out his athletics hat for a creativity cap, heavily involved in the school’s drama club.
“You don’t have to be you for once and you can act like somebody else and you just get to express feelings even if you don’t have them I don’t know there’s just something about drama acting is fun,” Vasquez said.
It’s been a great opportunity for him, especially to bring light to some deeper topics.
“We just did a senior showcase Mrs. Wright told us to do monologues on our lives and I basically described my life I got here when I was two years old from Honduras and did a monologue and I made people laugh,” Vasquez said.
He plans to join the drama club at Milligan University, where he earned the “Equal Chance for Education” scholarship or ECE: a Tennessee nonprofit organization that has helped hundreds of students “reach access to a college education without regard to race, religion or nation of birth.” This has helped young men and women like Miguel who are in the US Immigration Policy DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
He understands the adversity he has already had to overcome and has yet to face, but he said he is blessed to be in the situation he is in now.
“I want to have my own business and you have to be confident and be able to talk to people and drama just helps you in that because we improvise a lot and when you improvise like I currently am right now you think of stuff to say without stuttering as much as you can,” Vasquez said.
That’s not it, by the way. He’s also in the school bluegrass band and plays the bass.
One might think athletics and these extracurriculars might not really blend, but think again. The mental agility he learned from playing sports carried right over to these activities.
“In drama or in bluegrass you improvise even if I don’t know the song I know the skills and I can start playing something that sounds close to it and it’ll still sound good and in drama if you mess up your line you just improvise and the other person tries to improvise with you and it sounds good still,” Vasquez said.
No matter their background, these Blue Devils are all on the same team and they have quite a strong bond.
“You might think we just play soccer together but as coach Hensley said we ask Matthew and all the boys to go hang out we go bowling or play pool or something and hang out outside of school and just have a good time and these guys here I know they have my back and they know I have their back and we’re just family,” Vasquez said.
Follow this series throughout the year as WJHL’s Michael Epps finds the High School Standout every week on WJHL.com.