A pair of Brownsville Porter Cowboys midfielders will be heading to Texas A&M International University together in the fall.
On May 10, Brandon Montes and Erick Esparza signed to continue their soccer careers in Laredo, where they’ll play for Dustdevils coach Claudio Arias in the Lone Star Conference at the NCAA Division II level. They’ve both been working toward a college career for several years, hoping it’ll serve as a stepping stone to professional soccer.
“It’s a really big pleasure. It’s going to be a new experience, taking your skills and getting to meet new players and just experiencing the college level. I’m really excited, and I’m looking forward to it,” Montes said. “Since a very young age (I’ve wanted to play college soccer), because people would talk about it … and I was, like, ‘I want to be there, too. I need to start working hard.’ And it’s a great feeling knowing that I’m going to be there now.”
Added Esparza: “It’s really important for me because it’s a new opportunity and a new level, so it’s going to be harder. That means I’m going to get more experience, which will help, hopefully, in the future to get a professional contract. … When I got to high school, I saw that college was a big opportunity and something that could really help my future, so I started putting in the work practicing and on my studies, too.”
The educational aspect of getting a scholarship is important to both Montes and Esparza, and the academics at TAMIU played a big part in the seniors choosing to attend the school. Montes will be studying petroleum engineering, and Esparza is going into exercise science with a focus on physical therapy.
The recruitment process wasn’t easy because the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t allow for tryout camps during the offseason leading to their senior year, but the Porter coaching staff did all it could to help its players reach their goal.
“We invited several coaches to come and do camps here at Porter High School,” Porter coach Jose Espitia said. “We started sending highlight videos and emails to various coaches across the state. They had several offers, even though they didn’t have the opportunity to start trying out in the summer.
“Very special kids, both of them. We’re really excited to see them play at the next level,” he added. “Brandon is one of those players that you get every six, seven years. … He’s one of those special kids that you feel honored to be able to coach, and Erick as well. They make their teammates play better, and that’s one of the differences they have. We wish them the best of luck and congratulate their parents on this awesome accomplishment, because they couldn’t have done it without their support.”
Montes and Esparza had illustrious careers at Porter, capped by a playoff run this season that led to the Region IV-5A final. Esparza, a first-team midfielder in the all-District 32-5A and TASCO all-region awards as well as a TASCO academic all-state selection, said it was “really beautiful to get to that level” with his team after all the hard work it put in.
Montes was named District 32-5A’s most valuable player and earned first-team all-region and academic all-state recognition from TASCO. He said being named the male athlete of the year by Brownsville ISD as a junior was one of his best accomplishments and called it “a real honor.”
As the duo prepares for the next chapter of their lives, they’ll take with them lessons they learned at Porter to continue pushing themselves to be their best.
“Discipline is something that’s really important. Sometimes you might not want to do the work, but you need to because it’s something that’s going to help you out,” Esparza said.
Added Montes, “Work hard, work behind the scenes and be humble about everything. Doing that will help you get far.”