From El Salvador To Irondale: A Kicker’s Journey

by John Goolsby

Wuilman Guerrero
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In Frank Nix Stadium last Friday night, on Senior Night of all nights, with ten seconds remaining on the clock and his Mountie team trailing Homewood 8-7, senior kicker Wuilman Guerrero stood and calmly looked at the goal posts. The same goal posts that he had kicked hundreds, if not thousands, of balls through in practice over the years. There on the 9-yard line, Wuilmam had a chance to do something that he would have never dreamed of seven years ago. He took a deep breath and waited for the snap. It was good. Next the hold. It was good. Then a booming kick off of Guerrero’s right foot split the uprights from 19 yards. The Shades Valley sideline and crowd erupted. At that moment, the kid from El Salvador was living the American dream in Irondale, Alabama.

Guerrero celebrates with teammates.
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Wuilman Guerrero moved to the United States from El Salvador when he was 11 years old. He was finally able to reunite with his father after being apart for ten years. Coming to a new country wasn’t easy. “I didn’t speak English when I came here in the 7th grade,” he said.

Guerrero had grown up in a country where football, or soccer as it is known here, was the most popular sport. Guerrero had not seen “American” football before he arrived but was soon invited to give it a try.

“When they invited me to play football, I was the only Hispanic on the team,” he said. “The coach told me that he was going to help me with my English.”

While Guerrero was happy to try a new sport and work on his new language, his mother was skeptical. Guerrero said the first thing his mother asked him after telling her he wanted to play this strange new game was, “How are you going to play this sport if you don’t understand anything?”

“I started playing offensive line, defensive line, and kicking,” he said. “The funny part is that I didn’t know anything! Even when I came to high school, I was kicking with offensive lineman cleats like in middle school!”

Wuilman Guerrero is thankful to be playing football. “This sport means a lot to me. I started playing in 8th grade because I came here to the United States,” he said. As Guerrero looks back, he feels that getting involved with the football team helped his immersion into American culture and accelerated his grasp of a new language. “I think because of this sport, I speak English better now. I am where I am right now because of football,” he said.

When asked about his game-winning kick, Guerrero said, “I was ready because it is something that I work on every day in practice. I was nervous because of all the pressure from the team and all the people in the stands,” he said. “I thank the coaches for the opportunity to kick that field goal in the last seconds. I think that was the big opportunity that every kicker waits on,” he added.

“It was a special moment for me and my family in the stands because we come from a country that doesn’t watch this sport,” he said. “They are learning about this because of me. I am proud to represent my country, El Salvador, and I am so thankful for all the people who still believe in this team and support us.”

The Shades Valley football program is thankful, too. Thankful for the kicker from El Salvador that fell in love with a different type of football.

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