When he first started playing at the age of seven, soccer was not something Angel de Alba thought he could ever develop a passion for.
However, 15 years later he is still playing and enjoying every minute of it.
De Alba has played the last three years as a defenseman for La Verne’s soccer team and was a co-captain this season.
“My mom kind of forced me into it,” de Alba said. “But once I started, it just escalated. I love everything about it, the competitiveness, the feeling of slide tackling someone and the camaraderie that comes with it.”
Soccer has taken a back seat over the last two years to something that is far more important to de Alba than any game.
He and his wife, with the help of their families, are raising their 2-year-old daughter Leilanny.
“It’s been hard, but with the support of my parents and my wife’s parents, it’s made it easier,” de Alba said.
While most college athletes are worrying not only about keeping their grades up and making it to class on time, but also going to every practice and giving full effort on the field or on the court, de Alba has to worry about all of that plus taking care of his daughter.
“She just gives me one more reason to move forward,” de Alba said. “I want to be able to give her everything.”
Leilanny can be seen at home games, cheering on her dad from the sidelines, and win or lose at the end of the game she is always there to give him a hug.
“I get inspired by her,” de Alba said.
Family is a big part of de Alba’s life; he was raised by his parents in Pomona and is the eighth of 10 kids.
De Alba’s hero has always been his father, while his mom was at home raising him and his nine brothers and sisters, his father was out working construction.
“My dad’s just a hard working man,” de Alba said. “He always does the right thing.”
Being a hard worker must run in the family because that is how head coach Cres Gonzalez describes de Alba.
“He is a very hard working, confident young man,” Gonzalez said. “He sets a goal and goes out onto the field and does it.”
Gonzalez compares de Alba’s willingness to battle on the field to that of the Spartans in the movie “300.”
“He battles to the end,” Gonzalez said. “No matter what the score is or what the other team is doing he continues to battle, and that makes him valuable as a captain.”
De Alba was named to the 2010 All Decade team as a defender.
“Its an honor to get the award,” de Alba said. “It makes me feel good about myself because we play in such a competitive league.”
De Alba’s teammates called him a leader, a man with a good heart and with a good head on his shoulders.
“He’s the top defender in the conference in my opinion,” freshman defenseman Jared Taylor said. “He’s a natural born leader.”
“Angel takes initiative, he sets a goal, and he does whatever he can to meet that goal,” senior midfielder Luis de Luna said.
“Even though we’re good friends, he still has put me in my place,” de Luna said. “When I’m slacking on the field he’ll tell me to step it up.”
“I just want people to remember me as a player that went out there and gave it all he had,” de Alba said. “A player that left his heart on the field.”
De Alba is set to graduate in the spring with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
He plans to someday open a restaurant in honor of his mother.
“My mom always wanted to own a restaurant, but she never got it,” de Alba said. “So I guess the dream kind of got passed on to me.”
De Alba has come a long way from being a stubborn 7-year-old that did not want to play soccer, to now enjoying every minute of it, but with his college athletic career over he is setting his priorities in order.
“I just want to enjoy my life, have a good job and be a good dad,” de Alba said. “Oh and of course play soccer. I want to play till my bones are rotten.”
Elsie Ramos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.