PORT ISABEL — The Port Isabel Tarpons had a lot of reason to cheer at a surprise celebration for football coach/athletic director Tony Villarreal held Wednesday in the high school gym.
Villarreal’s Tarpons rolled by Aransas Pass 41-7 on Friday to improve to 3-0 this season. The victory was extra special because it was the 200th win in Villarreal’s storied career.
Though they celebrated the milestone with banners and a confetti bath after the game, the Tarpons weren’t done being proud of their coach, and they presented him with a special plaque at Wednesday’s festivities.
“I think it speaks to the quality of people that are here,” Villarreal said of the celebrations. “Football is important here in Port Isabel. I think most of my wins have been here at Port Isabel, I think we won 60 or 70 in my first stint. It’s special to get it here because you don’t do all this without having special people like are here.”
Several people spoke on Villarreal’s behalf during the ceremony, including two former players that are on his staff at Port Isabel. John Mark Calvillo and Juan Torres both thanked Villarreal for being “a coach for life” and continuing to support them long after high school football.
“I played for Coach Tony and then I coached with him in Weslaco for 11 years, so this is really special for him to reach this big milestone. He’s the winningest active coach in the state of Texas,” Calvillo said. “He’s a special individual, he’s my mentor, and to be here at Port Isabel with him, on the field as he accomplishes 200 wins, is something special.”
Torres told a story about running into Villarreal while he was in college, and the coach asked him what his post-grad plans were. When Torres said he wanted to be a teacher and coach, Villarreal told him “‘call me and I’ll get you a job,’ and he delivered on that promise.”
“Coach Tony is the greatest. He has made every coach on this staff better, every player he’s coached better. He demands our best, and he brings it out in all of us every day,” Torres said. “It’s an honor, it’s a privilege, it’s a huge blessing to be in that office with him every morning, to hear the wisdom, the knowledge, the passion that he has for (his players) and his coaches, too. … I’m glad to be on his team.”
Villarreal thanked his family, his past and present coaches and their families, the fans and school boards and administration for giving him the chance to coach at a handful of schools throughout the years. He called his current Tarpons team “pretty special” and said their obedience, discipline and work ethic will keep them, and him, racking up the wins.
“First and foremost, I want to thank all the former players from Port Isabel, PSJA North, Brownsville Hanna, Weslaco and now back here,” Villarreal said. “This is a very humbling situation. When you get into coaching, you don’t think you’re going to break 200, you just want to win the next game. You just want to do the best for your team and your coaches. …
“I’ve coached at a lot of places, and I am super proud and super happy to coach (these players), and that this happened here. It’s not over. Hopefully we can win a few more games.”