Soto enjoys a perfect mix of football and politics
Football and politics might not seem like a perfect match. They are for Bluefield College freshman Jose Soto.
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
September 26, 2012
Original content provided by Brian Woodson of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD -- Football and politics might not seem like a perfect match. They are for Bluefield College freshman Jose Soto.
As a 12-year-old growing up in Hialeah, Fla., Soto and a friend used to spend fall Saturdays as many Miami-area youngsters would, watching the Miami Hurricanes on the football field.
What they did next was, Soto would admit, a little weird.
“We were the weird kids, we were the ones that liked politics,” said Soto, a starting offensive right tackle for the Rams. “Our Saturday mornings used to be watch the Hurricanes play and then go read online reports on the government. We would go watch football, play football in the backyard and go read articles on the Internet and we just always liked it.”
Soto hasn’t changed. He not only plays football, but is also an aspiring politician.
“My idea behind politics is, what is better than a person coming from an ethic background, I can associate with that,” said Soto, who is of Cuban descent. “I went to college in Virginia, I can understand that aspect of life.”
In this election season, Soto would like change how the government is currently perceived.
“Politics today in a way is corrupt on both sides of the bar,” Soto said. “People aren’t honest with you. It doesn’t matter who it is, Republican or Democrat, I am a Republican, born and raised and there are very few us in Miami.
“I want to bring honesty. That is my main thing, just bring honesty to it, this is what I believe, this is what I am going to stand for. If it doesn’t get me voted in so be it, if it gets me voted in so be it, but this is what I stand for and not to be two-faced.”
The 19-year-old Soto was raised by a father who came from Cuba to America at age 13 without the ability to speak English. He wound up playing soccer in college at Miami-Dade College and Florida International.
His grandparents were raised on a farm in Cuba, where his grandfather was deaf as a child and grew up ‘having to work the land’.
“That is where my family comes from, we are hard-working, blue-collar people,” Soto said. “My dad came here when he was 13 years old and he couldn’t speak a word of English and he learned it.
“That is the difference from then to today’s people. They come over here and they just want to sit on their butts and collect benefits.”
Not Soto. Much like his family, he grew up wanting more. He arrived in Bluefield in August as a freshman history major, having been here once before on his way to Canton, Ohio.
“The funny part about this is I drove up to Ohio in 2005 to see Dan Marino inducted into the Hall of Fame and we spent a night in Bluefield, Virginia,” Soto said. “It is a small world, you never know where you are going to end up.”
Soto is part of a program that has been resurrected after 71 years of inactivity. He loves the sport so much he helped start the football program at Westland Hialeah High School in Miami.
“It is kind of going through the same thing, going through the growing pains, but we will be good,” Soto said.
Soto is still new to football. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Soto grew up at a Miami park where his father is employed in parks and recreation. He was too big to play Little League sports so he focused on whatever the sport was at that time.
“I grew up in a park,” he said. “My dad does parks and rec so I grew up playing soccer, tennis, basketball, football, if you could play it in a park I am good at it.”
Yet, his passion was football.
“It has always been my passion, I have loved it. I have two older sisters, but I was pretty much an only child,” said Soto, whose sisters are 31 and 29. “I would go in the backyard with a football and throw it at the trees and be Dan Marino and that is the reason I fell in love with the sport.”
When Soto wasn’t playing ball, he could be found with a good book.
“In my high school career I have read over 300 books,” Soto said. “I enjoy reading, I was home-schooled before I went to high school up to eighth grade and I was an extremely shy person, you never know that now because I am a chatterbox.
“What I would do is I would lose myself in reading and just read and read and read.”
Soto found an outlet with football, having grown to flourish in the family atmosphere that the sport provides.
“I played different sports in high school and it is not that same thing, it is that investment in something bigger than yourself,” Soto said. “I don’t want to compare it to the military, but it is that same kind of feeling.
“It may not be easy for you, it may be hard, but you know in the end you are doing it for something other than yourself. It is not a selfish sport, it is not like a basketball player that can take 30 shots and win a game.
“If there is one player not working good on the team, the whole team breaks down. It is that aspect of the game that I love, it is about team.”
He was looking for a new team as his high school career came to an end, and wound up at a recruiting clinic in West Palm Beach. He met Bluefield defensive coordinator Stacey Hairston, visited the campus and was hooked.
“I came up here and I really enjoyed it, I like the community, I like the people, I like the town,” said Soto, who enjoys working under the tutelage of offensive line coach Mike Compton. “I have always wanted to leave Miami and experience something different. That is something a lot of people don’t see is a different part of America and I have always liked this.”
Bluefield head coach Mike Gravier likes having Soto on his side.
“He is a great kid from a great family. His family is very supportive down in Miami, but his dad is up here for almost every game,” Gravier said. “He has been put in a tough situation starting at a tackle at the college level as a true freshman. Physically he is maybe not ready yet, but he is learning a lot and getting better and working hard.
“It is a tough deal when you have to step out there like that, but we think he has the size and athleticism to be a pretty good player down the road. He is just a wonderful kid, really just energetic and well-spoken and just a fun kid to be around. He was a good find for us.”
Soto’s father has made the long trip to Bluefield for all the Rams’ home game, missing his first game of his son’s athletic career when the Rams played at Kentucky Christian. He was able to keep up via the Internet.
That type of family connection is something Soto enjoys, and even enjoys the support of his 82-year-old grandmother, who is proud of ‘Pepito’, which is Soto’s nickname.
“I love it, at first when you are in high school, you are like, ‘it’s my parents, I want to get away from them’,” Soto said. “Once you get older I miss my family, I enjoy being with them, you enjoy the little things....
“(My grandmother) wrote me in Spanish and said ‘I am really proud of you.’ She would say, ‘I am glad you are studying law, go ahead and do it, you are just like your dad. You go to school and study and don’t turn out like me.”
Soto is happy in Bluefield. His future plans include law school and politics, but for now ‘Pepito’ is more concerned with helping to make the Rams a winner on the field.
“This is my passion, I wouldn’t have come — I don’t know how many miles it is from Miami, but I am freezing right now, this is winter weather for me — to come to play sports in Bluefield, Virginia,” said Soto, whose Rams will travel Saturday to play Union. “I like it, the coaching staff is great, the people are good, you have just got to work hard. We will be good, give us a few years.”
Soto plans to be much the same. He’s just going to do it his way.
“That is one of my biggest things, be who you are,” Soto said. “It doesn’t matter if I agree with you or not, but be who you are. That is what established this country — it is the greatest country on Earth — accepting whoever it was.”
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