Rafael Hidalgo, a former University of New Mexico wide receiver from 2016 to 2018, died on Sunday at the age of 26.
Hidalgo, who played quarterback at Hudson Valley Junior College in Troy, New York, went from walk-on at UNM to earning a scholarship in 2018. He was part of the Lobos’ 2016 New Mexico Bowl winning team.
Hidalgo, a Brooklyn native, was popular with his teammates. He was known as “Ralph” and served as the team barber.
He played football for the Badalona Dracs in Spain, and most recently played for the Pioneros de Querétaro in Mexico.
A GoFundMe page has been created for Hidalgo.
The message on the page closes with: “Due to Rafael passing in Mexico, all proceeds of this GoFundMe will go to costs related to transporting his remains back to the United States and all funeral costs.”
It does not list a cause of death.
“If you knew or got to meet Rafael, you knew and understood the bright life he led,” it reads on the GoFundMe page. “Life of the party is an understatement, and he made it his duty to show all of his friends and family unconditional love however he could.”
UNM Football’s Twitter handle tweeted a message of condolence along with photos.
We are saddened to hear the of the passing of former Lobo Rafael Hidalgo. Ralph played from 2016-18 as a WR after a JC career as a QB. He went from walk-on to earning a scholarship and was a part of the 2016 Gildan New Mexico Bowl winning team (1) #GoLobos pic.twitter.com/gJW1HXSs9n
— New Mexico Football (@UNMLoboFB) April 18, 2022
Hidalgo was one of 11 siblings.
He supported himself as the team’s house barber and by juggling other jobs at UNM, according to a story in the Journal from March of 2018.
“I don’t like to get my family involved,” Hidalgo told the Journal. “I made sure they weren’t worrying about me.”