EL PASO, Texas – Florida State’s trip to the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl here in El Paso represents the end of the 2019 season, and one last opportunity for these Seminoles to play together before stepping into the future with head coach Mike Norvell.
For senior kicker Ricky Aguayo and his family, it represents so much more than just a football game.
When the clock hits zero at the Sun Bowl, it will mark the end of one of the most remarkable runs in Florida State football history – seven straight seasons in which either Roberto or Ricky Aguayo has handled place-kicking duties for the Seminoles.
Roberto Aguayo, of course, is one of the most decorated kickers in college football history and played a key role in FSU’s run to the 2013 national title. And Ricky followed that with a successful career of his own, one highlighted by a 71.4 field goal completion percentage and four field goals of 50-plus yards.
And, in a way, it was all made possible in El Paso.
Years before his sons ever put on a helmet or shoulder pads, an 18-year-old Roberto Aguayo Sr. first left his home in Capellanía, Mexico, in search of a better life in the United States.
Aguayo travelled more than 900 miles to the border, and when he finally crossed into the U.S., he did so in El Paso.
His youngest son expects it will be an emotional return when Roberto Sr. and Martina arrive on Saturday.
“He’s got memories of when he was 18, crossing over here and just trying to find a life for himself and his family back home,” said Ricky Aguayo, who grew up in Mascotte, Fla. “I’m sure when he gets here tomorrow, he’ll be pretty emotional. But he’s excited, too.”
With his collegiate finale on the horizon, Ricky Aguayo has embraced both his roots and the platform he has in a city with such a heavy Mexican influence.
He’s played this season in a pair of cleats adorned with the Mexican flag, and, when a handful of Seminoles participated in pre-practice interviews, Aguayo stole the show with the local media.
In a three-minute Q&A session, Aguayo fielded questions in both English and Spanish, and later did an on-camera one-on-one with Claro Sports, a Spanish-speaking sports network based in Mexico City.
Pretty cool to see Ricky Aguayo conducting interviews in both English and Spanish. pic.twitter.com/GV1LGxbJpR
— Tim Linafelt / FSU (@Tim_Linafelt) December 27, 2019
Aguayo laughed and said that conducting interviews in Spanish is “definitely not as easy as English,” but that, thanks to his upbringing, in which he spoke Spanish to his father and English to his mother, he could manage it just fine.
“My vocabulary isn’t as broad as English,” he said, “but I’m definitely comfortable speaking Spanish.”
Citing influences such as boxer Canelo Alvarez and some members of the Mexican national soccer team, Aguayo jumped at the opportunity to speak to an international audience.
“Whenever they get interviewed in Spanish, and when they’re able to turn that switch into another language, I think that’s pretty cool, honestly,” he said.
With his time at Florida State nearing its end, Aguayo is doing his best to soak up every last moment on the practice fields, at bowl-week events and, finally, during the game at the Sun Bowl on Tuesday.
And he believes that doing it in front of his family, and in a place that holds so much meaning for all of them, will only make it that much more memorable.
“It means a lot to me,” he said, “because I know how much pride my dad has in his race and being a Mexican. I try to carry along that pride of being a Mexican and working hard, trying to do what we can do and do our best.
“I think it’s pretty cool. My last go-round here with the team is very significant, not only for me but my family as well.”