Manny Gomez - Head Coach
The Gomez Family: Manny, Melissa, Alysa 13,and Alexis 7
Mr. Gomez you were a member of the 1989 Harlingen Cardinal team which made it to round four of the play-offs. 1989 is considered one of the best years for the Cardinals. What was it like playing on that team and how did it affect your life after High School?
It was without a doubt a very important and fun part of my teenage life. It showed me and my teammates the importance and understanding of working hard not just to work but to work for a purpose. People compete everyday but we definitely understood why we did it and for what purpose. Bottom line, it taught us to understand the phrase, “you get what you put into it.” With all that being said, it prepared me for the biggest step in my life at that time, and that was going to college and fulfilling my childhood dream and playing college football. I received a half scholarship to attend Texas A&M University Kingsville and through production my freshman year on special teams, received the other half that spring. I can honestly say that I had bigger opportunities but definitely let my grades get in the way of that. What a learning experience!!! I without a doubt emphasis academics so much with my team because of the learning experience and impact it had on me. Texas A&I at the time, was not my first choice but due to my lack of commitment to my studies limited my opportunities. All in all, what a blessing it was to end up Javelina because I truly believe the good Lord has a plan for everyone and that plan has brought me back home to lead my Cardinals to bigger and better things.
What did you do between 1989 and starting with the Cardinals as Head Coach?
Well, I graduated in late May of 1990 and enrolled in Kingsville and started 3 a day practices on that August. Yes, I said 3 a days! Boy did those days seem long and evenings seem short but believe me when I say this, I would love to do it all over again!! I played for the Javelinas from 90-93. We lost to Northern Alabama my senior year by 4 points in the semis in which they turned around the following week and won the National Division II college championship by I recall 17 points. I proceeded and graduated in May Of ’95 and got hired as a freshman football coach at my Alma Mater Harlingen High. I was a freshman coach for 2 years, varsity assistant for 6 years, Defensive Coordinator for 3, and became the Head Coach in 2007.
Have you coached some losing teams or teams that were better than their record might indicate? What did you learn from the experience?
Well not to brag or boast but Harlingen really hasn’t had too many losing seasons. I was part of a couple of teams that did not make the playoff. One team went 3 and 7 and the other went 4 and 6. These times were hard for me because for one, I was not used to losing and secondly, it proved to me that it was A LOT easier to play the game than to coach it. It truly made me aware that it is not what you know but what you can get your players to understand.
Did you have any challenges you had to overcome while playing football in High School or on your path to becoming Head Coach?
Playing football was the easy and fun part because it was a sport in which i loved and I definitely knew it was not going to last forever. So, that’s why I played it like I did. It was a moment in my life that really took my breath away (just like that George Strait song says) because I truly loved playing the game. Becoming a Head Coach has been a simple transition for me because of where I am coaching. I might see it different if I were to be somewhere else and the reason why I say that is because of how I feel for my Cardinals. But don’t get me wrong, I have personal goals of maybe someday being in Coach Juan Castillo’s (Defensive coordinator for Philadelphia Eagles) shoes and coaching in THE LEAGUE someday. He actually was a coach at Kingsville when I played for the Javs and had the pleasure of getting a field pass a couple of years back to be on the field during pregame and witness the hype of NFL football! You talk about placing a kid in a candy store, and plus the eagles were playing their old time foes of the Cowboys. Let me just say that it wasn’t pretty for them Cowboys, Eagles won something like 54-7.
If a student is deciding whether to join a school football team, what advice would you give them?
I am not going to lie to anyone about this one, but I would definitely tell them to join the best program in Texas and that’s the Harlingen High Program. I say this respectively because there is a huge amount of very well established and committed programs in our great state but I know what this program did for me and definitely know without a doubt what I will do for them. It’s not just a program here at HHS but a way of life and definitely a safe haven for anyone who just wants to expand their mind, body, and soul and prepare themselves for the ultimate game on our schedule, LIFE!!!
I’m not aware of a Valley Team that has ever won a state championship. Many people believe Valley teams cannot beat the bigger schools up north, which has been proven incorrect. Do you believe The Harlingen Cardinals could be the first Valley team to win a state championship? Why?
The 61 Donna Redskins won a state title to make you aware. I truly believe that we can do it. Again I say this respectively, because there are some great programs in the valley but I truly don’t know how they handle their mental awareness with their kids to be able to speak for them. With that being said, it really does not matter what the Head coach of any school believes but what he can get his kids to believe. Saying is one thing but to do it is another and with this big win under our belt, hopefully it will provide us with a big chance of HOPE. Only time will tell so I will leave it at that.
You stated in a previous interview on YouTube, players’ confidence is the key to the winning seasons the Cardinals have been achieving. How do develop the confidence in the players?
You simply talk to them and listen to them as well. Here is the kicker, don’t talk to them about football stuff but talk to them like if you were talking to your own son or daughter. Make them understand that you truly care about them. Hold conversations with them about their family life and help them cope with their own struggles they might be dealing with. People forget that a big part of being a leader is being able to listen and I definitely take a lot of pride in listening to my athletes’ issues and dealing with them together. I was having a conversation with Coach Long (now retired) from Austin Westlake after our second playoff game at the Alamo dome and he mentioned how we have a great program. I proceeded to tell him that yes we do but what we really have is an at risk program because we have a lot of kids that don’t have much support at home and sometimes don’t have the simple luxuries like food or electricity to survive. He couldn’t believe me when I told him that but then again who could when you attend a school like Westlake that sometimes kids only issues there is whether to drive the BMW or the Mercedes to school. (I say that respectfully because I know that’s not always the case.) What a reality check for a lot of us huh?
Does the school district provide you with all the necessary funding to develop your players to their full potential?
Yes they do. Plus, not that he is bias but it helps when your Superintendant of schools is an ex-football coach. The football boosters also help a ton especially now with the budget cuts as well as the community leaders, churches and business owners as well. Total Team effort!!!.
How important are academic achievement and off-field behavior for your athletes?
As freshman It’s one of the first things we emphasis to the student/athletes about being a Cardinal Football Player. We not only have high expectations on the field but off the field as well. I take it a step further and notify parents to allow me to help them with disciplinary issues they might be having with them at home. I want ALL of my players to be model citizens, players, sons, brothers, and last but not least great teammates. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, playing high school sports, so why not make it your best and without any doubt, the most memorable!!!
What would you like to tell the Cardinal Fans?
I would like to thank all the supporters, administration and especially the diehard ones that are the first in line to buy Cardinal football tickets. A lot of you haven’t experienced this and might think these people are crazy but people camp out over night to buy season tickets for our regular season games. It’s crazy but that’s what Cardinal football is all about, controlled chaos. You guys don’t know the intimidation our crowd has on our opponents so I invite you all and any person who just wants to see the Friday night lights spectacle at its finest. I truly believe we have the best fans in the state and that we are all in this together. It’s not the power of one, but the power of many coming together as one!!! Again thank you for all of your support and always remember that “CARDINAL SPIRIT NEVER DIES!!!” Manny Gomez-Class of 1990-Cardinal for life.
You call also read other profiles: Steve Mayer - Harlingen Assistant Chief of Police, Valerie Drake D.D.S., Cindy Hopkins - Real Estate Broker.