Photo Courtesy of UTSA Athletics
Senior Eric Soza, UTSA’s starting quarterback, visited a local high school on Thursday, Oct. 17, for what he believed to be a normal afternoon where he was scheduled to speak to the Stevens High School football team about balancing academics and football. Unbeknownst to Soza, he would be surprised with the 2013 Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team Award.
Soza appeared both shocked and honored as the Good Works Team plaque was presented to him in front of Stevens High School students who were in attendance. The prestigious award was given to Soza for the community service work he has done and the lives he has impacted during that time.
“It was a shock. It was a great surprise and I’m glad it happened in front of Steven’s High School,” Soza said. “It is very humbling. We don’t do it for the recognition; we do it because it’s the right thing to do. To be awarded something as big as this is an unbelievable experience.”
The AFCA is the top award college football players can receive based on their off-field work contributions. Nominees must be actively involved in their community while maintaining exemplary grades. Allstate aims for recipients who go the extra mile for those in need and who strive to be a positive role model in their community. This is the 22nd year the award has been given out. The Good Works Team is an elite group of only 22 players from around the nation. It is comprised of 11 players from the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision and 11 players from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Divisions II, III and the NAIA.
The program received a record-breaking 150 nominations from colleges all around the United States this summer. From there, an impressive panel of former Allstate AFCA Good Works Team members and college football media choose the 11-player FBS team.
Ralph Peña, a local Allstate agency owner who had the honor of awarding Soza the official plaque, saw great character in Soza’s personality.
“Everything about Eric is a description of what Allstate and the AFCA looks for in a recipient. They are looking for an individual who not only exceeds on the field and academically, but also in our community,” Peña said. “Eric has given selflessly to many programs and we admire those qualities in a young man. Realizing that everyone’s playing days will end, the character that this young man has is what we are looking for. He represents all the good that we love to see in this sport and, actually, in life.”
Soza graduated with a Bachelors degree in physical education while maintaining an impressive 3.96 GPA. He is currently studying as a graduate student to become a head coach. In addition, Soza is the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAC) and an active member of UTSA’s community service program.
Many times when Soza is not focusing on his next opponent, you can find him reading to a local elementary students with the “Rowdy Readers,” or speaking to under-privileged children on the importance of maintaining their health.
“I just want to be a positive influence,” Soza said. “I want people to remember me not only as a college football player but also as a great person.”