All in the family
Published 9:24 pm Friday, October 19, 2018
Kicking for Albert Lea is a family tradition for 2 locals
For Ismael Cabezas and Danny Caballero, football has been passed down through the family for many generations.
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Caballero, Cabezas’ grandfather, played football for Albert Lea High School in the late ’70s as a kicker. He still holds a school record for the longest field goal made, booting a 50-yarder.
The kicking gene was passed down to Cabezas, as he is now the place kicker and punter for the Tigers as a junior. Cabezas said it means a lot to him to carry on that tradition.
“It makes me feel really proud,” Cabezas said. “I’m happy to carry it on. My grandparents did it, my uncles did it and it’s just nice.”
Caballero said sports have been a big part of the family ever since he was young. He said his father, a minor league umpire and a professional bowler, always pushed him and his siblings to be involved in sports.
“I love watching them now,” Caballero said. “Watching all my grandkids play ball, that makes me feel pretty good. It’s also a good way to keep them out of trouble and that’s what I like to see.”
On top of playing football, Cabezas has also been involved in basketball, while Caballero participated in a number of sports growing up, including football, basketball, wrestling, baseball and track and field. However, football is where both of them found their calling.
Cabezas said he enjoys the intensity and physical contact of football and Caballero agreed; getting to hit people was his favorite part as well.
Although both ended up in the role of kicker on their respective teams, each of them ended up getting into kicking different ways.
“When I was growing up, I was always walking around kicking rocks, kicking cans and stuff like that,” Caballero said. “Then I moved onto soccer balls in gym class and things like that. I would say ever since I was 5 years old I was playing football with older kids. They had me kicking off and I really liked that.”
Cabezas got his start after playing soccer at a young age.
“Playing soccer when I was younger, I really liked kicking the ball,” Cabezas said. “Then my grandparents started taking me to Vikings football training camps and that started to make me like football. We had tryouts one day for being a kicker and I just gave it a shot.”
In the nearly four decades since Caballero has played high school football, he said there have been multiple changes made to the game. He said the biggest positive change he has seen is how the rules have changed to protect players. When he played, he said they never had to think about how hard or where they hit people. But now, players’ safety is emerging as a focal point in football.
The latest Tigers’ game saw them beat Belle-Plaine in their first victory in two years. Cabezas was 5/6 in PAT attempts.
“Everyone was on high emotion after that,” Cabezas said of the win. “We were all very happy and psyched up.”
Next, the Tigers will face off against an 0-8 Red Wing team in the first round of sections Tuesday night. They will look for their first playoff win since the 2012 season, in which they beat Byron 14-9 in the opening round.