By John Philip Wyllie
Football has never been a sport to attract an abundance of Hispanic athletes, but the rapidly improving San Diego State Aztecs have a good one in starting defensive end Jonathan Soto. The 6’3” 265 pound Soto traces his ancestry to Nicaragua and Guatemala and is one of the few Spanish speaking players on the team. It is what he does on the field however, that has the Aztec coaching staff excited about his future here. Soto had seven tackles and a sack in the game against New Mexico several weeks ago and he hopes to top that in the three weeks remaining in the regular season.
The 4-5 Aztecs have a shot at playing in their first bowl game since 1998, but in order to do so they must win at least two out of their final three games. With only tough match-ups remaining, Air Force on the road at noon tomorrow followed by home games versus TCU (November 24) and BYU (December 1) it won’t be easy. But this Aztec team has already surpassed many people’s expectations and under the leadership of second year coach Chuck Long, it is gaining confidence.
“I love what our coach brings to the table. He keeps us motivated each week and gives us goals to strive for. We support him 100% in every decision that he makes for us,” Soto said.
“I think we have improved tremendously (on defense). Since we started (playing in) our conference everything with the exception of tonight’s second half has been amazing. Our performance in (that second half) was really poor and that is something that we need to go back (and address) in order to prepare for our next three games. They are going to be tougher because we will be playing some better teams.”
Soto believes the Aztec’s recent improvement will snowball for them and ultimately help them to attract more talented local players. Players who never would have considered SDSU may be more willing to join a program that now appears on the rise.
“We are trying to keep San Diegans in San Diego,” he said.
Soto is looking forward to the challenge of winning these next three games and he is doing everything that he can to improve as a defensive end.
“My goal personally, is to improve each and every game. I keep myself prepared each week and spend a lot of time in the weight room, with conditioning and mentally with a lot of film study. I set pretty high goals and I have yet to meet them. I want to get more sacks and tackles.”
While his Guatemalan-born father and his Nicaraguan-born grandmother might have preferred that he had stayed with the soccer that he played as a youth, his entire family has gotten behind him in his efforts on the gridiron.
“It is great to have that support from my family,” Soto said.
If the Aztecs can find a way to beat their next three opponents his family may have a lot of company in the often vacant seats of Qualcomm Stadium.