Cardinals’ Zuniga set to be two-sport athlete at TLU

Ezvyn Zuniga was a well-rounded student-athlete during his career at Harlingen High, and he’s set to have a similar experience when he heads to Texas Lutheran University.

On July 14, Zuniga signed to compete in football and track & field for the TLU Bulldogs at the NCAA Division III level. The honor student who graduated in the top four percent of his Cardinals class will be studying applied physics.

“I’ve been trying to make a decision for the couple months after graduation, so it was a big relief for me and my parents, knowing where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do,” Zuniga said. “It’s a privilege to play up in the next level. Not a lot of kids get recruited out of the Valley, but we’re having an uprising almost with more and more kids getting recruited. I want to be able to show future generations that it is possible as long as you put in the work. The sky’s the limit.”

Academics played a big part in Zuniga’s decision-making process. He said the small class sizes at the private TLU will be a big benefit versus attending a larger university. He appreciated the hospitality and friendliness of everyone on campus, including the coaches.

The opportunity to do two sports with the Bulldogs was “kind of a freak deal” that started on Twitter, Zuniga said. A track coach reached out to him, then he asked about the football program, and after getting in touch with the football staff, the programs decided to both give him a shot.

He knows it won’t be easy to balance two sports and a tough major, but he’s confident he can do it. Zuniga did football, track and soccer in high school, and participated in several clubs like National Honor Society, student council and engineering club while maintaining top marks in his classes.

“It’ll be a little challenging just managing my time, but I feel I’ve done that pretty good in high school, so I’ll have a little bit of an advantage,” Zuniga said. “You can’t compare college to high school, but I feel like those high school experiences of being able to balance all my clubs and academics and sports really will help me in college.”

Zuniga expects to play either defensive end or middle linebacker in football, and feels he has a good shot at earning a starting spot if he puts in the work. He’ll be a sprinter doing the 100- and 200-meter dashes in track, and was told he has “a solid chance” at making the 400-meter relay team to run the third leg like he did at Harlingen High.

The 2020-21 athletic year was a big one for Zuniga. He was a unanimous all-District 32-6A first-team inside linebacker and received an honorable mention all-state nod from the Texas Sports Writers Association. In track, he was a state qualifier with the Cardinals’ record-breaking sprint relay.

Zuniga was thankful for the lessons he learned at Harlingen High and for the coaches, friends, teammates and family members that supported him along the way.

“(Cardinals football coach/athletic coordinator Manny Gomez) is like a father to me, he always helped me whenever I needed or gave me advice, and all the coaches there,” Zuniga said. “My parents especially (helped me), taking me to practices and waking up early for me and getting things ready. My family was there whenever I needed them. My classmates and teammates, without them pushing me, being there with me, I don’t think this is even possible.”