For The Madera Tribune
Madera native Michael Alvarez is all smiles after signing his National Letter of Intent to play football at Whittier College. With Alvarez are, from left, his parents Michael and Gina and brother Matthew.
Through his elementary school years, Madera’s Michael Alvarez has been a star in athletics, except in football.
It wasn’t because he wasn’t very good, it was because he never played football until he became a freshman at San Joaquin Memorial-Fresno that Alvarez discovered a love for the game.
He began his career at wide receiver and finished his career as a three-year varsity starter at SJM. He was also a City/County All-Star selection for both football and baseball, although he wasn’t able to play in the football game.
“It was more my dad’s decision than mine (to play younger),” Alvarez said. “I remember talking to my dad and he said he would love to see me playing underneath those Friday night lights. I told him, it wouldn’t hurt to try. I went out there and ended up having a great season at receiver. I got pulled up to varsity. During playoff practice, I threw a ball 50 yards and the coach said you’re going to be our quarterback next year and the rest is history.”
Alvarez, despite playing torn labrum on both sides of his hip and a sports hernia, earned an offer to play football at Whittier College in Southern California and signed a National Letter of Intent in April.
“I wanted to go to Fresno State,” Alvarez said. “They weren’t really recruiting me to play baseball or football. Nevada talked to me and I went to their camp. There weren’t very many colleges talking to me. I felt Whittier was my best choice. They gave me a bunch of financial aid money and so I’m hardly paying. I felt it was my best decision going to school and for me to further my athletic career.”
At first, Alvarez planned to play basketball and baseball at SJM, but eventually turned to football.
“It’s kind of weird how that happened because I became more football and baseball, than basketball,” Alvarez said. “The basketball coach kept trying to get me out there. I was always too banged up from football season.”
Despite not playing organized football until high school, Alvarez, who will major in political science at Whittier, dove right in to earn a starting quarterback spot in his sophomore year.
“I remember going into my sophomore year, I was still learning,” he said. “It was my second year playing football. The coaches told me I wasn’t going to be starting unless I got the mechanics down and knew the offense. That put a chip on my shoulder and made me work harder than ever. I watched film and football. I watched other players and tried to mimic them and it ended up working out.”
Despite making the decision to play at Whittier, Alvarez said the biggest decision he’s had to make was choosing to attend SJM, rather than go to Madera High School.
“There is nothing wrong with Madera High at all,” he said. “I talked it over with my parents and I decided that my education was more important for my future. I thought and prayed about it and felt that my best decision was going to Memorial. Not only will it prepare me for college, but help me in the future business-wise and getting a job later on.
“It was the hardest decision I made in my whole life. There are times you have to think about yourself or think about having fun. Fun doesn’t last forever. I always tried to hang out with them. Some kept away from me because I was that Memorial kid. Every once in a while, we’ll regroup. Now that we’re all graduated, I’m starting to hang out with my Madera friends again. It’s like they forgot everything.”
This season, Alvarez had to play through pain and it came from playing receiver than getting hit as a quarterback.
“I remember one practice, coach told me to play receiver,” he said. “I went on a slant and jumped for the ball. I caught it, but our middle linebacker hit my hip and I flipped over and landed on my other hip and that’s when all the pain started.”
Alvarez didn’t get to play against his Madera High friends and took other games off to heal.
It was tough for Alvarez to get ready for the upcoming baseball season. After the first game, he took off half the season before praying for a chance to play baseball again.
“I wasn’t too good after football season. I couldn’t run and every time I twisted my hip, it would hurt. I sat out half the season. My teammates were having a tough season and I was wishing there was something I could do. I prayed about it and asked God for one more game. It ended up being in the Easter Classic against Clovis West and I felt good that day. I had a great game and played the rest of the season. God blessed me with the opportunity to play with my high school friends.”
Alvarez had surgery a month ago for his left hip and will have surgery at the end of the month for his right hip.
“My left side feels amazing so I’m able to breathe fine and move more,” he said. “My right hip bothers me some. As soon as I get my right hip done, I’ll feel good.”
Alvarez said that his parents and grandparents have helped out a lot in rehabilitation, but that his brother Matthew won’t be a nurse any time soon.
“I’m not doing really anything this summer,” Alvarez said.
With college a three-hour drive away, Alvarez expects to see his parents and family members at every home game.
“I’m not too far, but I’m far enough from my parents,” Alvarez said. “My mom’s family is from LA. I’m not too far from them. There are some a couple of streets down so if I ever want a home-cooked meal, I can always go to their house. I’m never going to be alone in Los Angeles. It’s pretty exciting.”