While the NFL has seen it’s Latino population grow through the years, college football has played an active role in that. After all, it is the collegiate game that provides the main pipeline of players for the NFL. And thanks to the resurgence of Latinos in the professional game, the number of Hispanic players on college rosters has grown as well. There are 130 teams within the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision that are a part of 10 conferences and a group of six independent teams.
Among those schools there is at least one Latino player on almost every team. That number is sure to grow over the next few years, but here’s a look at some Latino players that are sure to make an impact during the next couple months worth of Saturdays during the upcoming season…..
Nebraska freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez–
With Cornhuskers legend Scott Frost taking over as the head coach this year, there are a ton of expectations that come with it. With Frost being a former quarterback, he knows a few things about the position. And Martinez is one of the most heralded prospects to arrive in Lincoln, Nebraska in quite some time. He has yet to play an official college game, but his performance in the Huskers’ spring game earlier this year received rave reviews.
So much so, that the California native is already the favorite to win the starting job. When Frost was under center in Lincoln he won two conference championships (1996, 1997), a national championship (1997), had a 24-2 record as the starting quarterback, he’s on a very short list of quarterbacks than both ran and threw for 1,000 yards in a single season, he was also a Heisman Trophy finalist (1997) and won numerous individual awards.
When you consider all of those accolades, and his success while coaching Central Florida, he needs to get the quarterback position right from day one. Martinez has the perfect skill set to run Frost’s up-tempo spread offense. But even if he doesn’t start at the beginning of the season, he will one day and he will be a top prospect to keep an eye on.
Texas Christian junior punter Adam Nunez–
This special teams player definitely has an NFL future ahead of him. The two attributes that make him an NFL commodity are his strong leg and his consistency. He averages well over 30 yards on every punt, 24 of his punts over the previous two seasons have been 40 yards or longer, 56 of his career punts have been downed inside of the 20-yard line, and he only has six career touchbacks.
The TCU Horned Frogs are one of the better defensive teams in college football and Nunez lends a huge assist in that effort by giving opposing teams difficult starting field position. I wouldn’t be surprised if he left school one year early to pursue an NFL career.
Arkansas senior defensive back Santos Ramirez–
If this 22-year-old Louisiana native is looking to play in the NFL then he already has an impressive resume. The Southeastern Conference is one of the more difficult conferences to play in at Ramirez’s position as the SEC is the home to many big arm quarterbacks and speedy wide receivers. But Ramirez has held his own as evidenced by his 137 career tackles, three career interceptions, 13 career pass deflections, and five forced fumbles.
He has a knack for getting to the football, he can cover a good amount of ground, and he’s survived in the SEC’s West Division specifically which is arguably the toughest division in the game. Ramirez has definitely earned himself a second round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Florida State junior kicker Ricky Aguayo–
The Aguayo family kicking dynasty lives on in Tallahassee. Ricky’s older brother Roberto is now applying his trade in the NFL after leaving his mark in a Seminoles uniform, and Ricky so far has held his own. In the last two seasons he’s converted 37-of-47 field goal attempts, 93-of-95 extra point attempts, and has scored 204 points along the way. And like his brother Ricky has also shown to have great leg strength of his own.
He’s made 18-of-21 field goals from between 30 and 39 yards, 8-of-15 from 40 and 49 yards, and he’s only missed one of his attempts from 50-plus. When all is said and done, the Aguayo’s will have set a new standard for place kicking at FSU.
Pittsburgh senior wide receiver Rafael Araujo-Lopes–
Don’t let his size (5-foot-9, 190 pounds) fool you. Lopes is on the verge of being the next successful Pitt receiver to make it to the NFL. Heading into his final college season, Lopes has already caught 46 passes for 567 yards and two touchdowns. He’s established himself as a quick-footed slot receiver which you can never have too many of at the next level. He’s looking to have a big season in 2018.
Pac-12 linebackers Rick Gamboa and Jordan Perez–
Gamboa, a senior at Colorado, and Perez, a senior at Stanford, have seen it all in the west coast’s largest conference. The Pac-12 is the home to some of the most high-scoring offenses in the country complete with dynamic quarterbacks, receivers that are hard to cover, tight ends that can stretch the field, running backs that are hard to tackle, and physical offensive linemen.
These fine athletes however have withstood the pressures of playing in this conference -and against each other- as they’ve combined for 363 total tackles, 3 1/2 sacks, one interception, and 13 pass deflections, all since 2015. They’ve proven themselves against NFL caliber talent and rest assured that the NFL has these young men on their radar.
Army senior linebacker Chandler Ramirez–
Not every college player is focusing on an NFL career. For those who attend the service academies (Army, Navy, Air Force etc.) like Ramirez, their post-graduation focus is on serving our country. Service academy students are required to give some form of military service after they graduate, exceptions however have been made for players who have been drafted or signed to play a professional sport. Ramirez is undersized for his position (6-feet, 210 pounds) but you can’t tell by the way he plays on the field.
His 11 tackles and one pass deflection in 2017 contributed to a defense that held six of their 12 opponents under the 20 point mark and won back-to-back Commander-In-Chief’s trophies. Of those six one opponent was held scoreless, while another was limited to single digits. As Ramirez begins to look towards graduation, he looks to put together an even bigger effort in 2018.
Marshall senior linebacker Frankie Hernandez–
Coming out of Largo, Florida, this 22-year-old is another undersized player (6-foot-2, 222 pounds) making a name for himself on the collegiate gridiron. Marshall has a rich football tradition. And they currently play in Conference USA, a league which presents a variety of offenses and coaching styles. And for the last three seasons Hernandez has more than held his own.
He’s totaled 129 tackles, five sacks, and one pass deflection while wearing the Thundering Hurd jersey. He has the fundamentals to play professionally, he’ll just need to bulk up if he does intend to play at the next level.
These Latinos will be all over your televisions and mobile devices over the next couple of months.