|Just call him Chief: Vargas fills role as Division I player and leader|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Sept. 13, 2005 - When Jose Vargas was in the second grade, his family moved to Sulphur Springs from inner city Los Angeles in search of a safer place to live.
Those who line up against the 6-4, 325-pound senior nowadays find out pretty quickly that there is no safe place to hide.
Vargas, a Top 300 recruit in the state according to Texas Football, is anchoring the Wildcats' offensive line for the second straight year at left tackle. Last season, he recorded more than 100 pancake blocks on his way to being named First Team All-District.
He may look like a gentle giant off the field, but once he laces up his cleats, Vargas is no teddy bear.
"You don't want to line up across from him," SSHS head coach Brad Turner said. "I've told every recruiter that came through here that there's a lot of 300-pound linemen nowadays, but what makes Jose special is that he has a nasty temperament.
"He's a great kid off the field, but when he puts that helmet on and those shoulder pads on, he's going to get after you. Those offensive line coaches really like that about him. That sets him apart and turns him into a Division I prospect. When he gets down in the trenches, he does his job."
Already he has scholarship offers from at least a half-dozen Division I universities including UT-El Paso, SMU, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Missouri and Notre Dame.
He's undecided where he'll go, but where ever he's headed, the program will get not just a top-notch lineman, but a team leader as well. He showed that after Monday afternoon's practice when he and a couple of other seniors kept the team late to run more conditioning drills.
Vargas goes by the nickname "Chief" - a moniker he was tagged with by offensive line coach John Albritton - and his teammates certainly look to him for leadership.
"They don't want to have to answer to Chief," Turner said. "We didn't have a great practice yesterday, and after practice he took a role in getting their attention. I tell our kids all the time that I can fuss at them, but it may not mean as much as when one of their own does it.
"He's turned out to be one of the better leaders of this bunch because he takes ownership in our team and he takes in personally when we don't do well. It's not just whether he plays good or not. He played pretty good the other night, but our team didn't play as well and he takes a lot of ownership in that. That's what leaders do."
Vargas said it's just a matter of helping his teammates become better.
"What I like most about football is just playing with the team," Vargas said. "They're my family. We're working hard and improving.
"Lean on me - that's our motto. From first string to third string, it doesn't matter - when you touch the field, you're part of the team no matter what position."
That mindset has become increasingly important for the Wildcats this season. Due to injuries, their starting line-up sheet has had more erasers taken to it than an Algebra paper, so back-ups are seeing valuable playing time.
The includes the offensive line which had had a different starting line-up each game. Still, they have not allowed a sack in 111 passing plays and opened the way for more than 220 yards of rushing offense last week.
"Our attitude is to keep our blocks until the whistle blows. I think we've gotten better each game," said Vargas, the son of Jose and Misty Vargas. "Logan (Turner) hasn't had a sack, so that's a good thing. I think that pass blocking is one of our better aspects."
Vargas has been one of the constants in the changing offensive line. He has started 15 straight games for the Wildcats despite currently being banged up. Pity anyone who would try to get him off the field.
"I love to play football," he said. "My team's the main thing. One day, I'll be going off to play college football, but I'm not worried about that right now. This is the best time of my life - right now."