By Andrea Wiegman
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Most people may be amazed to hear that senior captain Roman SanDoval's most memorable sports moment did not, in fact, take place on a football field. The talented linebacker began wrestling at age six and continued to compete in matches throughout high school. As a junior in high school at Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, Pa., SanDoval won the Pennsylvania state wrestling championship.
SanDoval accredits the "greatest underdog moment" in his sports career to a match wrestled during a regional tournament, which would qualify him for the state championship. Seeded five points below the number three wrestler in the nation, SanDoval crushed his competition by a solid nine points and went on to finish as the runner-up in the state championship as a senior.
As different as the sports of football and wrestling may seem, SanDoval believes that wrestling taught him the discipline and toughness which are two character traits essential to being a successful college football player.
While reflecting on his high school wrestling career, being on the wrestling team made SanDoval really appreciate the routine of football. "With wrestling being my second sport, I was able to recognize how much fun football truly is," said SanDoval. "Even the stuff that may seem boring to some like watching film and practicing I learned to love because it was way better than practicing in a 100 degree wrestling room while being undernourished due to the weight loss aspect of the sport."
SanDoval's fervor and passion for football does not go unnoticed by those around him. "It is in the way that he plays," said head coach Tom Gilmore. "People see how hard he works and the enthusiasm he brings to the field. He is one of those guys that always gives 100 percent. That attitude is an inspiration to the other players around him."
When it came down to deciding if he should pursue wrestling or football in college, SanDoval decided that his passion for the classic American sport was greater than that of wrestling. Holy Cross became SanDoval's first choice because it was the perfect balance between first-rate academics and an outstanding football program.
SanDoval's desire to attend a top tier school to challenge himself academically while also participating in an athletically successful football program comes from the values bestowed upon him from his parents and older siblings. Coming from a family of athletes, SanDoval attributes his motivation and ability to balance schoolwork with football to his three older brothers, who are the most positive influences in his life. The tight knit relationship SanDoval has with his family made it easier for him to attend a college so far away from home, knowing that he always has a support system if needed.
His brothers have been influential in both the athletic and academic endeavors throughout SanDoval's life. He is the youngest of four boys and gifted athletes, as all of his brothers participated in Division I athletic programs in college. His oldest brother, Ric, played football at the University of Pennsylvania; his brother, Nic, played football at St. Francis (Pa.) University; and his brother, Nino, was on the wrestling team at Franklin & Marshall University. They have set the standard, and a very high one at that, which SanDoval strives to meet both academically and athletically.
SanDoval emphasizes how thankful he is for his family and everything that they have done for him. He said that his family always tries to make his football games, but seeing as how Holy Cross is a nine hour drive and over 500 miles away from his hometown of Allison Park, Pa., it can be a bit difficult. His brothers and parents support him from home by watching his games online when they cannot make it to Fitton Field, and he knows that they are very excited to watch him play this year as a starting linebacker.
Coming off of a 2011 season that was cut short due to an injury, SanDoval entered this year with a new passion and fresh perspective. Instead of dwelling on the past, SanDoval looks at his injury in a positive light. SanDoval, a declared Mathematics major interested in working on Wall Street someday, was able to take the time to put extra focus on his classes. He also spent a lot of time with his coaches, watching film and critiquing his game.
When talking about his recovery, SanDoval feels as though he has reached full strength and he will not allow last year's injury to deter him from leading the defense this season. "I feel 100 percent and ready," said SanDoval. "I feel as though I have a better understanding of the defense as a senior this year, and I think with my time off last year and the extra studying I put in has really paid off. I feel a lot more comfortable out there."
Coach Gilmore notes that SanDoval was initially a bit rusty coming off of his injury because of the inactivity. However, Gilmore has praised SanDoval's recovery. "He had to re-train himself in the type of movements he has to use on the field, but by the time we started the season this year, you really did not see any effects from the injury last year."
It is no secret that SanDoval's passion for football keeps him driven and motivated in several aspects of his life. The values bestowed upon him from his family members and his own personal drive for success are demonstrated in both his performance on the field and his leadership off the field. SanDoval's willingness to put in the hours to do tedious work like watch film has turned him into a tremendous player over the past four years and makes him an inspiration to his teammates and coaches. His positive outlook on his injury and speedy recovery shows the team that nothing can hold them back from success this year and there is no hurdle that cannot be overcome.
This story originally appeared in the October 6 edition of the Holy Cross Game Day Program, for the contest between the Crusaders and Bucknell. To order a copy of the program, click here.