They share the same last name, the same initials and maybe look similar when standing next to each other, but Itasca head coach Ricky Torres and Marlin head coach Ruben Torres are not brothers, cousins or relatives.
“It’s actually pretty common,” Rickey said of the confusion. “Obviously because of the last name, but you know, we’re seen together and people say, ‘Oh, is that your cousin or your brother?’ No, we are not related. It’s always the first. We are not related. He is from 800 miles away. I don’t even know anyone in that direction.”
Ricky Torres is a born and raised Waco kid. His family has lived in the area for about three generations, since his great-grandmother came from Mexico. He was an offensive line guard at Waco High under coach Johnny Tuss and went on to play for Mary Hardin-Baylor.
As a child, Ricky took up football to get rid of his aggression. He and his brother were raised by a single mother who worked multiple jobs. But football attracted him in part because the game required only a ball and a yard.
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And like many other children growing up in more than one culture, there was always something to prove.
“You think of the movie ‘Selena,’ where (Edward James Olmos) says that quote — ‘You’re not Mexican enough, you’re not white enough, we’re somewhere in between,'” Rickey said. “We weren’t Mexican enough because we didn’t play soccer. We didn’t speak the language. And then I wasn’t athletic enough because I was a Mexican who usually played soccer. There was a slight difference in the way people looked at you, but it’s a matter of having to prove yourself.”
Although there weren’t many other players who looked like him or who he and his brother could relate to culturally, Rickey said that didn’t matter when he was on the field. At Waco High, it was all about whether you could play.
Initially, he did not plan to become a coach. He earned a degree in sports management and went on to work for a minor league baseball team. But, strangely enough, it was there that he found his calling.
“I’d be in the stadium watching practice instead of in the office,” Ricky said. “I wanted to be on the field, not behind the scenes, so I went back to Waco and got my teaching certificate.”
Similarly, Ruben also had no plans to become a football coach. El Paso is not just a border town. It is also a military town surrounded by different people.
“When you look at the border towns, I think that’s what was unique about them,” Reuben said. “My grandfather was a lieutenant colonel. Sports are just a big part of our family, especially with my dad and my grandpa. … My younger brothers are coaches, and they actually started coaching before me.
“I kind of went the business route and worked for the government overseas in the Department of Defense (DOD). When I came back from Iraq, I just didn’t have anything to do, so I started working as a coach.”
The two may not share blood, but they share a passion for football and coaching. When Ruben arrived from El Paso to take over as coach with the Marlins, he hired Ricky Torres as the offensive coordinator. After a historic playoff run with the Bulldogs, Ricky became the head football coach and athletic director at Itasca.
The two connected through the Hispanic Coaches Association, which is part of the Texas High School Coaches Association, after which Ricky emailed Ruben about the Marlin job. In his 13 years of coaching, Ricky said he’s only worked with four Spanish-speaking coaches.
“The Hispanic Coaches Association basically allows all of us Latinos to know people like you, to connect, talk, ask questions and help each other,” said Ricky. “We are allowed to grow and expand throughout the state of Texas. … I think it allows us to be more successful and, as a branch, go a long way.”
Soccer is still a growing sport among the Mexican community. Many still prefer a different look football. But in Texas, football is king.
“I think the success we had last year (at Marlin) encouraged a lot more of our Hispanic kids to come out,” Ruben said. “My mother is white and my dad is Hispanic, so I’ve been very blessed to see a lot of different cultures, but just being in Texas, you grow up with football. .. And it’s kind of ingrained for you, whether you’re good or a superstar. Everyone wants to be a part of Texas high school football.”