A team player

Published 4:24 pm Thursday, May 1, 2014

FRANKLIN—Angel Padilla is a serious high school student, especially when it comes to soccer.

Angel Padilla

Angel Padilla

“In Mexico, it’s the main sport,” he said. “My whole family plays soccer. Every single person in Mexico takes soccer seriously because they know it is an opportunity to become famous and get money for your family.”

Hailing from the small town of Cañadas de Obregón, Jalisco, Mexico, Padilla has had a soccer ball at his foot ever since he was 5 years old.

“My brother got me into it,” he said. “Whenever he used to play with his friends, he’d let me in, and I just started liking it.”

After middle school, Padilla moved to Franklin, and he enrolled in Franklin High School and started on the varsity team freshman year.

“When I was in Mexico, I always wanted to come to the U.S. and play for a school,” he said. “I thought it was a good opportunity. It was a chance to show myself and what I could do.”

So far this season, the forward and central midfielder is sporting 10 goals through 7 games, and he has 2 hat tricks, one against Surry and the other against Greensville. The team, at 2-5, isn’t playing as well as they would like, but he said there are still several games left.

“We’ve had some ups and downs, but we play as a team,” he said. “We win as a team and we lose as a team. So, we can’t complain, we’ve just got to get better.”

Individually, the 19-year-old said, “I think I’m doing pretty good. But it’s not my best. I can get better.”

Padilla said he enjoys both positions, but that he prefers playing center midfield.

“With forward, you just have to wait for the ball and make the goal on every opportunity you have,” he said, but added that in midfield there are more opportunities to exercise his role as a team leader. “With center, you have to make the play and talk to people to make everyone work as a team.”

He’s looking to play on the university level, and perhaps professionally one day. Real Madrid C.F. is his favorite club, though he’s thinking more about playing in the MLS right now.

“I’m just looking to get better at it, and try my hardest in each and every game,” he said. “I’m going to college, do what I do, and build up my skills.”

His soccer coach, Clay Hyatt, said he feels that Padilla will do well on the next level. Right now, Padilla has an offer to play soccer at North Carolina Wesleyan.

“He’s a good kid and extremely talented,” Hyatt said. “I expect to see him flourish once he gets in a more soccer-intensive environment. Once he gets to college, and starts playing every day on the next level, surrounded by people who also have a similar level of talent, I think we will see him flourish.”

Hyatt said his captain is a good leader and also an extremely talented player.

“The thing about Angel is, he’s already got the leg strength of a grown man,” he said. “He’s always a threat to score — he’s gotten several from further out than 35 feet, so coaches adjust for him.

“He’s got a good attitude, and he’s a great teammate and leader for our team.”

Though he was hesitant at first, Padilla eventually gave the U.S.’s big sport a try.

“At first, I didn’t like football. I didn’t understand the sport,” he said. “But Coach P [Darren Parker] was always talking to me, ever since my freshman year, wanting me to play. I started learning the game from my cousins, tried it, and I like it now.”

Padilla was the Eastern Regions All-1A team as the place kicker this past year. Even though he likes football, soccer’s still where his heart is, partially because of the action.

“It is kind of the same thing, in that in both sports you’ve got to talk to each other and communicate well,” he said. “But in football, you stop a lot and call the plays. You’ve got time to think about it.

“In soccer, it’s different. You don’t have timeouts or anything like that. Everything you do, you’ve got to just do it. You’ve got to be smart and make the right decisions in a split second. You’ve got no time to waste.”

When he’s not in class or working at Don Panchos, Padilla is thinking about soccer.

“When I’m not at work, I’m at home, working out and practicing on my own,” he said. “I also play in a league in Norfolk, and I play at the YMCA.”

Though sometimes even at work, Padilla admits that he’s thinking about soccer.

“When I’m at work, and if I see something on the floor, I just kick it — act like I’m playing,” he said. “Soccer is pretty much all I do.”