The Southern Arizona Chapter of the National Football Foundation announced its 2022-23 Scholar-Athlete of the Year nominations last month and included among the list of all the football players was Andrea Verdugo’s name from Rio Rico High School.
Verdugo did not play football for Rio Rico coach Jeff Scurran.
She made it possible for the Hawks to play the game efficiently last fall in her first and only year as the team’s manager.
Verdugo, a senior who has a 4.3 GPA, served double-duty as team manager and equipment manager. She accomplished this while working part-time at Starbucks and upholding her high-achieving marks as a student.
She is “a manager that went above and beyond the call of duty,” according to Rio Rico assistant coach Bryant Stott. “We didn’t have an equipment manager last year and she took care of everything among other things.
“We told the NFF that we wanted to nominate her for the award but managers weren’t eligible. They liked her so much, they added manager to the list of positions that they award and gave it to her.”
Verdugo, who is from the Rio Rico area, was honored Monday during a ceremony at the school’s Performing Arts Center.
She shared the stage with football players who signed with their respective colleges — defensive lineman Jesse James Octavio-Callejo with Pacific University in Oregon and wide receiver Francisco Arellano with the South Dakota School of Mines.
Verdugo, who is headed to Oregon, was presented the NFF’s newly-formed “12th Man Award” and scholarship at the ceremony.
“They actually made a whole new award just for me, called the ’12th Man Award,’ and that is gonna be like an award other people can receive after this year,” Verdugo said.
“It was just the fact that I do a little bit of everything (to win the award). I have very good grades. I also do a lot in my community. I have a lot of community service hours, I also have a job and I play sports as well. They thought I was the most qualified applicant for the spot.”
Scurran added, “I’m one proud teacher-coach. These three student-athletes represent the very best in us; smart, hard working, friendly, compassionate coachable, and with true grit.”
Despite all of her demands off the football field in the fall, including her job at Starbucks, Verdugo “never missed a football event,” Stott said.
Verdugo also started to prepare to play for Rio Rico’s basketball team toward the end of the football season. She competes in tennis during the spring.
Her role as equipment manager included keeping tabs of the inventory.
“I actually took out a period so I can be a TA (teacher’s assistant) for (Stott) to do that,” she said.
“It was a lot of work but sometimes if I was at practice, and I had free time, I would do homework in my free time,” she said. “On bus rides, I would be doing homework. I’m just very good at managing my time and knowing when I should do things. When I have free time, I take advantage of it.”
Taking on a lot of responsibilities with Scurran’s program at first made her have second thoughts of becoming a team manager for the first time.
“There was some days where I just felt really overwhelmed with everything I had to do,” said Verdugo, was was assisted by two other student managers. “Football was the most time consuming thing — managing our practices, Saturday practices and everything. At some point, I didn’t know if I could do it all, but I always managed to keep it together.”
Verdugo plans to major in biology with a minor in forensic anthropology at Oregon.
She is envisions herself as an optometrist or ophthalmologist and with a backup plan of working in forensics.
Another important aspect attending the Eugene, Ore., university is the Hispanic population on campus.
“They have a lot of clubs for Hispanics,” she said. “I thought that was really cool as well.”
She was born and raised in Rio Rico, which is only 16 miles from the Mexico border.
Verdugo mentioned her parents are “sad” to see her leave out of state for college but are proud of her academic success, including earning a scholarship from the NFF Southern Arizona Chapter — an honorable award for the time she put into Rio Rico’s program.
That work made her a pioneer, creating the opportunity for others in her position to earn the NFF’s “12th Man Award” down the line.
Scurran has told those close to him that in his almost 50 years of coaching, Verdugo is a “one of a kind” person for how valuable she was as a student manager.
Verdugo will graduate from Rio Rico next month, ready for adulthood.
“It was a really fun experience with a lot of learning,” Verdugo said of her time at Rio Rico. “I learned a lot while I was there, like time management. I grew a lot as a person. I had a lot of resources as well that helped me throughout high school. I’d say, overall, I had a really positive experience.”
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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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.