Francisco “Kiko” Trejo credits his grandfather Hank Trejo for his maturation in football. His inspiration for the sport, especially at the running back position, comes from his late father Leo Mills, a former high-profile Arizona player who passed away in August.
Kiko, junior at Amphi, was raised by Hank and Luvena Trejo. While growing up and having a football in his hands since he was 3, he learned all about his dad’s promise at Arizona as the original five-star prospect to sign with the Wildcats out of Humble, Texas, in 1998.
A member of the Wildcats through 2001, Mills died of a heart attack at 40 years old.
“I wouldn’t have been playing if it wasn’t for my father, but my grandpa is the one who carried it on,” Kiko said. “He influenced me to play more. He helped me on my journey.”
Kiko earned the All Sports Tucson APS Digital Print/Frog & Firkin Player of the Week honor with his 210 yards on 15 carries with three touchdowns in Amphi’s 28-17 win over Flowing Wells last week.
Amphi coach Jorge Mendivil mentioned the potent running game of Kiko and senior Isiah Hill, behind the blocking of senior linemen Daniel Dominguez and Jose Gonzalez, is a significant reason why the Panthers are 3-0 for the first time since 2009 when Vern Friedli was still coaching.
“Kiko and Isiah give us a huge 1-2 punch because you can’t focus on either one of them,” Mendivil said. “They’re both outstanding runners. Isiah’s a senior; he’s been in his program for four years. He’s very patient.
“Kiko has learned to set up his blocks (watching the linemen in front of him) because if you watch Isiah on film, he really utilizes blocks to get more yards on top of the fact that he hits wherever it’s open.”
Kiko has rushed for 395 yards on 37 carries with five touchdowns and Hill has amassed 350 yards on 46 rushes with three touchdowns.
Amphi, scheduled to host Rincon/University on Friday at 7 p.m., will attempt to start 4-0 for the first time since 1997 when the late Friedli coached the Panthers to a 13-1 record with the loss occurring in the state title game against Mesa Mountain View.
“We’re out here grinding and working hard,” Kiko said. “They all put their effort on the field. Effort as a team is how we get our wins. I can’t do it without my teammates.”
Kiko stands at 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds and uses that size to his advantage with his speed maneuvering through the line and his physical toughness allowing him to gain more yards after contact.
“The main thing for him was learning, being patient and being coachable because he has natural ability,” Mendivil said. “He’s got great speed. We’ve been working on his cutting ability and set up his blocks. Initially, he wanted to run everything to to the outside.
“He had success with that at the freshman and JV levels but when you get to varsity you’ve got guys who have better angles and they can catch him. He’s setting up his blocks a lot better and running inside like we told him to so he can set that outside burst up.”
In his 13-game varsity career dating to last season, Kiko has averaged almost a first down every time he carries the ball. He is averaging 9.7 yards a rush. He has gained 1,001 yards on 103 carries.
“The thing with Kiko is he strives to get better every day,” Mendivil said. “He always asked, ‘What do I have to do?’ He’s not complacent. He wants to do the little things to get better.
“Catching the football is an area he’s really improved on (three receptions for 66 yards this year with a touchdown after not catching a pass last year). This year, he’s a prideful member of the receiving corps as well. Getting the ball in space to him and utilizing him in the right spots, he’s going to be really successful.”
Amphi has a storied past with its running backs from the Friedli years including the Bates brothers — Marion, Michael and Mario — as well as Jon Volpe and Antrel Bates (no relation to the Bates brothers). The most recent of them was Antrel Bates, who led the Panthers to the championship game when they lost to Mesa Mountain View.
Kiko has not yet elevated to that level, but he has the rest of this season and his senior year to prove he can belong in the same paragraph with those Amphi legends.
“My running and my footwork, basically my strength and my stiff arm, my arm game is what I want to work on,” Kiko said, also noting that he is trying to strengthen his lower body to improve his agility.
His father was known for that type of strength as a 6-foot-2 and 215-pound back who signed with Dick Tomey as a Parade All-American.
“Playing the same position as my father is very exciting,” Kiko said. “I can carry on his legacy. That’s why I really want to achieve during this football season. I want to make him proud.
“My grandfather helped motivate me through. He helped me all the way through my journey. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him, to be honest.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.