Cabrillo football coach Mike Ulufale wasn’t disappointed when a handful of his senior starters told him that they would be working jobs during this football season. He was actually impressed.
“It just shows commitment,” Ulufale said. “A lot of my sophomores and juniors are looking up to these guys where they can balance work, school and play.”
Receiver Roger McMillan (pictured), nose guard Christian Reyes, center Nicolas Marino and defensive end Edgar Haro are all senior starters who play both sides of the ball for the Jaguars while holding down a job.
“I can’t stop them from making their money,” Ulufale said. “They’ve got families they have to help provide for. Football is there for them to let loose after work and any stress they need to leave behind.”
Roger McMillan is one of the most talented and hardest working players on the team, so Ulufale wasn’t surprised when he picked up a job at Chick-fil-A in June.
“He lives with his grandparents now after his father passed away some time this year,” Ulufale said. “That took a toll on him. For that kid to balance what he’s going through while establishing his home for himself while working and playing and studying… I commend him. He’s taken on a big role to help himself and his grandparents.”
McMillan said he worked almost every day over the summer, and has cut down to twice a week during the season. McMillan works in the kitchen where he makes nuggets and sandwiches, and said that the Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich is still, “Undefeated.”
“We talk about our schedules and how we have to work around things just to be able to work and play football,” McMillan said of his working teammates. “There’s not a lot of other things we can do while doing both of those.”
McMillan has the talent to try and play at the next level, but said he’s also concentrating on getting his degree in chemical engineering.
Christian Reyes works about 30 hours a week at the McDonald’s down the street from Cabrillo. He said his entire summer was about working, and he hasn’t slowed down during the season. McDonald’s started him on the fries, and now he’s working the counter and drive thru.
“Yesterday I had to be late for work because of football practice but they were fine with it because I talk to them about my schedule and when it’s best to work,” Reyes said. “School is 8 a.m. until 2:40 p.m. and then I have football practice at 3 p.m., but I usually leave early at 5 to work at 6. I try to do my homework during my 10 and 30 minute breaks at work. But last night I had a lot so I was up until 1 a.m. doing my homework.”
Reyes also said he wants to got to college and study engineering.
“These guys grind,” Ulufale said.
“It’s a mentality,” Edgar Haro said of balancing his schedule as a chef’s assistant at the Long Beach Convention Center. “You have to be prepared to do all of that. Your body aches from work and then you have to go practice or perform. We hold ourselves to a high standard.”
Haro said he works three times a week, and gets extra hours on the weekend.
“It’s motivating to know that I’m not going though this alone,” Marino said of not being the only player on the team with a job. “If I need any help with anything I talk to those teammates because they know exactly what I’m going through.”
Haro wants to attend college and study kinesiology.
“I have a job because I don’t want to ask my parents for money and it looks good on a college application,” said Nicholas Marino, who certainly doesn’t have a typical job.
Last year an old Cabrillo football teammate got Marino a job on a fishing boat docked in San Pedro.
“At first it was really cool, but once I got into it and football season started it’s been getting more difficult,” Marino said. “We play on Friday’s and then I have to wake up at 4 a.m. on Saturday to work and I get off around 7 p.m.”
Marino enjoyed fishing with his family while growing up, and now he gets to help other people fish in the open water and around Catalina.
“It’s just making people happy,” Marino said. “When I help a little kid catch a fish… It’s the best feeling giving it to that kid who is running around the boat screaming.”
Marino added that it’s nice to know he’s not the only one learning to navigate a packed schedule during the football season, but none of that would be possible without a supportive coaching staff.
“Seeing those four do what they’re doing while still maintaining eligibility to play and dealing with family stuff is a big accomplishment for them,” Ulufale said.