English High School senior quarterback Emmanuel Almonte was recently named “Player of the Week” by ESPN Boston. But he has not always loved the sport that has landed him accolades.
Almonte said in a recent Gazette interview at English High School that when he first began playing football at the Pop Warner level, he hated it.
“I used to be real fat,” Almonte said with a laugh. “I thought there was so much running.”
But his coaches were persistent, calling his house to make sure he continued to play. He eventually switched to the linebacker position and fell in love with the game that won him the “Player of the Week” honor last month.
He said it is “cool” to win the award, especially since a lot of athletes for the Boston Public Schools never receive any recognition.
Almonte, who lives in Hyde Park, commands a Blue and Blue team that is 4-0 after coming off a 22-6 thrashing of O’Bryant School of Math & Science last week. Almonte had more than 200 all-purpose yards, including two touchdowns and 148 yards rushing. That game illustrates his dual-threat nature both on the ground and in the air.
The undefeated start is a stark change for a team that had been dogged with winless seasons a few years ago. Almonte credits the turnaround to second-year head coach Brian Vaughan and his relentlessness. He said the coach rounded up each player after last year’s 7-4 campaign to make sure they would return for the next season and would work hard during the summer.
Almonte also said that Vaughan does not allow the team to become overconfident, pulling a page from the Bill Belichick playbook about taking the season one game at a time. He said the team has a 24-hour rule: They are allowed to enjoy a victory for 24 hours before they have to “forget about it” and move on to the next game.
Almonte said his most memorable moment on the gridiron came last year when English beat Boston Latin in the annual Thanksgiving Day game. He threw the game-winning touchdown with the clock winding down to give the Blue and Blue their first victory in more than 15 years on Thanksgiving Day. Almonte said he didn’t grasp the significance of the win until he came off the field and saw alumni who were crying.
Almonte said he hopes to play college football at a Div.1 program and will continue to “work hard” and “keep going at it.”
“I will take whatever comes my way,” he said about his future.
Almonte will next be in action when his Blue and Blue team takes on New Mission High School today.