Three Lobo walk-ons awarded football scholarships - Albuquerque Journal

Three Lobo walk-ons awarded football scholarships

This promotional photo from the University of New Mexico shows Javohn Jones bearing the state flag as he leads the team out before the game. Jones, a La Cueva High alumnus, is one of three players who were awarded football scholarships, it was announced on Wednesday. (UNM photo)

For a walk-on college football player, below are three of the most beautiful words in the English language — or four, depending on how one feels about contractions.

You’re on scholarship.

Wednesday morning, those words were a Beethoven violin concerto to the ears of Rafael Hidalgo, Javohn Jones and Thomas Vieira.

All three entered the University of New Mexico football program as walk-ons — non-scholarship players. Now, they’ll finish their careers on scholarship.

Lobos coach Bob Davie made the announcement at a team meeting.

“It caught me off guard, like really hard,” said Hidalgo, a junior college transfer wide receiver who will be a senior this fall. “… My shoulders felt like there wasn’t that much weight on them anymore.

“It was like a total blessing.”

For Jones and Vieira, former La Cueva teammates and close friends since their tee-ball days, being awarded scholarships at the same time heightened the experience.

At the meeting, Davie first put up a Jones highlight tape.

“I had a pretty good idea of where it was heading,” said Jones, a junior running back. “Then (Davie) called me up (to the front), and it was just a good moment, a good feeling to have all my teammates there, everyone supporting you.

“Then to have one of my best childhood friends get a scholarship on the same day, it was good energy in there, for sure.”

Thomas Vieira was awarded a scholarship on Wednesday. (UNM photo)

Vieira, a junior wide receiver, said he and Jones entered the UNM program in 2015 with the shared goal of earning a scholarship.

“We knew it was gonna take time and a lot of work,” Vieira said.

And patience?

“A ton of patience,” he said. “I’d talk to all my friends, all my family,” he said. “They’d keep telling me to stay and do it, keep pushing, because the reward’s coming. Nothing comes easy.”

Rafael Hidalgo earned a football scholarship from UNM on Wednesday. (UNM photo)

Hidalgo, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native, has supported himself as the team’s house barber and by juggling other jobs.

“I don’t like to get my family involved,” said Hidalgo, one of 11 siblings. “I made sure they weren’t worrying about me.”

Now, he’ll be able to worry only about academics and football — though he probably won’t give up cutting hair.

For Vieira, “The biggest motivator for me is to help my parents out, because I didn’t want them paying for school.

“This will definitely take a lot of weight off of us, my parents and myself.”

Jones has been on an academic scholarship since coming to UNM. That made his pursuit of an athletic scholarship no less determined — and his reaching that goal no less satisfying.

“It’s definitely more validation,” he said. ” … Just to see everything come to fruition.”

None of the three new scholarship players has logged much playing time as a Lobo. Hidalgo has one career reception, Jones seven career carries, Vieira no career receptions.

They’re not counting on their new scholarship status to get them more playing time. Only the same work ethic that earned them those scholarships, they said, can accomplish that.

“I definitely don’t think it changes my status, or really changes the way people look at me,” Jones said. “But hopefully, it pushes me toward the next step.

“It’s a level playing field. Everyone’s got to perform and go out there and compete every day.”

NEW COMMITMENT: Colston Chacon, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound offensive lineman from Corona Del Mar High School in Newport Beach, Calif., announced on Twitter that he has committed to UNM.

Chacon had scholarship offers from Stetson, Delaware State, Columbia and the University of San Diego.

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