Story by Taylor Hodges, Sports Editor
Photo Courtesy of Enrique Padilla
The journey began some years ago when a young Enrique Padilla, or Rico, as most know him, picked up a soccer ball for the very first time. Little did he know that the tiny black and white ball he first picked up would give him some of the greatest moments of his life to date. Like every notable athlete, their journey starts at a very young age, usually with the support and dedication of their parents. Rico knows this story like the back of his hand. After being introduced to soccer through his father’s passion for the game, he decided to pursue the sport himself and ultimately create a bond unlike any other between his whole family.
“My parents have supported my passion of soccer my whole life,” he said. “My parents have invested a lot into me and have taught me through soccer and life to be gracious for everything I am given.”
After having a successful career at local powerhouse Northview High School, Rico decided to take his talents to Aquinas College. During his first year, the team had arguably one of its most successful season to date going 7-3 in the WHAC and 13-6-3 overall, while also getting a stab at nationals. As a first-year defender, Rico made waves by playing in 18 games and starting two. During this campaign, he notched his first points of his career and ended up with two to start his legacy.
The next couple of years were much of the same. The Saints were rolling and Rico was helping to lead the back-end. During these three years, the Saints accumulated 38 wins, of which, 16 were conference match-ups. While Rico was heavily influenced by his dad to play the game, he still lists a few players that inspired him to keep getting better.
“My favorite soccer players are now retired or close to it, but their names are Carles Puyol and Ronaldinho,” he said. “Ronaldinho always had a smile on his face. He loves to play the game. When he plays, he brings joy to people and has a very beautiful way of playing. I will never be as good as either one, but I look up to those players.”
Over the course of his four years, Rico has compiled eight points, but his defensive play and leadership will always be remembered as being the characteristics the team needed. After captaining the team for his last two years, Rico has lead many and learned just how important his time was here.
“I’m going to miss playing on that field,” he said. “It might not be a crazy stadium, but the community type feeling, the memories, and investment I have made on that field are extremely special to me.”
So, what’s next for the soon-to-be graduate? While he may never pursue DJing like his roommate, he has big plans to embrace the younger years of his life. Maybe he knows just how fast it all can go by.
“I want to still be young for a while,” he said. “I want to work and travel. I don’t think I want to jump into the corporate world just yet. I want to experience another place other than Grand Rapids. I love Grand Rapids, just need to see some more of the world.”
One thing’s for certain, soccer will always remain a part of his life. The memories, friendships, and lessons he’s learned from this game has shaped him to be the man he is today. During our interview, he told me he wanted to be remembered as someone that worked hard and stayed humble.
“I hope I am not looked at as simply a decent soccer player, but a decent human,” he said in a warm tone. “I like to meet people and make them smile. So hopefully people can remember a time that I made them smile.”
While one journey ends another one begins. Rico mentioned that he was proud to be apart of the Aquinas community for these last four years. I think I can speak for the rest of us when I say we’re the ones that are proud to belong to the same community as this kindhearted, respectable young man. Thank you for your contributions on and off the field Rico, while we’re sad to see you go, we know that you’re going to do great things on your next journey.
About the writer…
Taylor Hodges is a senior majoring in Sport Management/ Business Administration. He is the sports editor for The Saint and interns with the public relations department for the Grand Rapids Griffins. He hopes to one day break into the hockey business as a General Manager, but until then, encourages you to follow him on Twitter and download his mixtape.