ODEM – When Odem’s C.J. Romero graduated high school in 2016, he didn’t leave football behind. He began at Texas Lutheran University that fall and got his bachelor’s in kinesiology and exercise science, all while playing wide receiver for the four years he attended.
In March, Romero and his agent, Kenneth Foster, were gearing up for a tryout for the Canadian Football League (CFL) and use it as a stepping stone to get to where he really wanted to go — the National Football League (NFL).
But the pandemic changed all that.
“Two days before the tryouts for the Canadian Football League, everything was canceled because the coronavirus outbreak,” Romero said. “So, that just left me waiting — but ready.”
Getting to the point of trying out for a professional league took some time and especially some effort. Coming from a small town like Odem, Romero knew he wouldw be fighting an uphill battle simply because this was real life and not a Disney movie where the small town athlete fulfills his destiny and wins the big game in the end.
Battling against a small town mindset and naysayers who were always trying to keep his head out of the clouds, he fought through it all — and is still fighting it — just to finally grasp his dream of playing professional football.
“I said for so many years, ‘Why not me? Because I’m from a small town?’ Who says that has to keep me or anybody from making a professional league?” he said. “That’s what I want to use my platform for, to show these kids it can be done.
“I know I’m not in the NFL or a top three wide receiver giving these kids some advice, but I’m getting close to it. To even be in the mix or in talks to be able to play at that high level. I still try to influence these kids to not give into that small town mentality because you can really do whatever you want if you want to play at that next level.”
Romero said a few months ago he was cleaning up and found some old school papers from elementary. On one of them it asked ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Romero’s answer? A professional football player.
Now he’s one step closer.
Romero recently signed a contract to play for the Arena Football League’s back-to-back champions in 2018 and 2019, the Duke City Gladiators based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and he couldn’t be more thrilled.
“The thing is, going into an arena league, the coaches don’t want to keep you for more than three years,” he added. “Their job is to get you noticed by CFL or NFL — those types of leagues. You should be there three years max.
“Their goal is to get film on you and get it to the higher leagues so that you won’t spend the rest of your career there.
“I look at it as just another way to show off my skills.
“And if nothing happens at least I’m playing football and I have a great team to play football with professionally.”
While the season won’t start until the spring, his mantra has remained strong throughout.
“I just had to stay ready,” Romero said. “We’re all going through the same thing with this pandemic as athletes and as students.
“You just have to be ready so you don’t have to get ready.”
Now, Romero is pursuing his master’s degree online with the University of Texas at San Antonio while continuing to train in Odem. He will have a few games before the season officially starts and is looking forward to learning a new way to play the sport he loves.
“It’s been a really fun journey so far and I’m just looking forward to continuing on,” Romero said.
“I’m truly blessed and humbled to even be in this position to continue my football career and I give God all the glory through the ups and downs.
“One thing I believe in, and one piece of advice I want to give others, is trust in God’s plan no matter what.
“And that’s just what I’ve been doing.”
Paul Gonzales is a reporter at The News of San Patricio and can be reached at 361-364-1270, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.