SAN JOSE - Juan Velazquez personifies the time-honored expression of an athlete who makes a difference on and off the soccer field.
Velazquez, 27, plays midfield for Real San Jose. He is known as a talented, hard-working and unselfish team leader on the field who helps provide a steadying influence to his team.
But off the soccer field on game day? You can find him helping to get the home stadium ready for game day and even clean up afterward. If he’s hurt and can’t play, he is willing to take a three-hour trip to support the team at an away game. He even turns out at practices when he knows he cannot play in an upcoming game.
It is because of these reasons, and others, that Velazquez has been named the winner of Real’s annual Alex Arellano Award for being the best teammate.
Alex Arellano is the second son of Real San Jose founder and manager Nick Arellano. Known affectionately as the “Mo Man”, Alex was known for attending practices and games and cheering on RSJ with all his heart. He died in 2012 at 25.
Velazquez will receive his award June 12 at 6 pm at the PAL stadium when currently unbeaten RSJ takes on the Salinas Soccer Academy.
“Juan is exactly the type of person the Alex Award is all about,” Nick Arellano said. “Alex was a great teammate to all the RSJ players and Juan is a great teammate to all the RSJ players. He has been that way since he first came out for the team. I am so proud that Juan is achieving this award.”
Velazquez said the award “means a lot” to him. He has heard of the late younger Arellano’s impact on RSJ. He said he has been on soccer team where the chemistry is not right and it is not fun. He wants to build a positive team chemistry. Whatever Velazquez does at RSJ, he said it reflects his core beliefs about the value of being a good teammate.
“I think I have always been a team kind of person,” he said. “That is why I play soccer. I like being part of something bigger than just me.”
This is Velazquez’s second season with RSJ. He said the team’s successful 2022 season reflects the fact that half the team has returned from last season. They were a playoff team last season. Now they know each other even better.
“The competition is so tight no one wants to miss practice,” Velazquez said.
Not that Velazquez is one to miss practice!
His teammate, Hector Herrera, 28, said he noted that Velazquez comes to practice even if he is too hurt to participate. Furthermore, Herrera said he was impressed, and surprised, Velazquez even made a three-hour trip to attend a RSJ away game.
Not many teammates show that much passion for a team, Herrera said.
“We’re still a team,” Herrera said. “You need to be there.”
On the field, Herrera said his teammate helps Real players calm down if things don’t get their way. Velazquez does not want his team bickering with themselves, or the referee, which could lead to a disciplinary red card.
It is easier to appreciate Velazquez’s on-the-field intentions when you have seen him give so much of himself to the team off-the-field.