Meet Yonathon Mendoza, the unsung hero of the Wheeler Mustangs

Hale Hughes

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Yonathon Mendoza has made a big impact on the Wheeler football program ever since he arrived on campus.

That impact isn’t seen on a box score or stat sheet, however. Instead, it’s evident in how motivated and prepared the Mustangs are before taking the field on Friday nights.

Mendoza, now entering his senior year, has played the role of team manager for the Wheeler Mustangs for three years. He can’t be on the field because of a muscular disability, so he does a lot of the backstage work to make sure Wheeler is putting a good product out on the field, according to head coach Chris Evans.

“He’s such a quiet kid that just takes care of stuff behind the scenes, you can almost not notice that things are getting done,” Evans said. “When you look up and you start counting the tasks that he’s doing, you realize he’s filling in for positions and places [where] we don’t have coaches.”

During a normal regular season, Mendoza would handle a lot of the unheralded tasks that go into keeping a football team healthy. He would take care of some injuries by providing ice to affected athletes and would have ice baths ready after practices. Another part of his job includes keeping players motivated when things might not be going their way.

Mendoza said he isn’t naturally vocal, but he knew he had to step up and be leader when he joined the Wheeler football program.

“Whatever they need, I’m here for them,” Mendoza said.

Now, Mendoza is one of the more vocal members of the team, according to Evans. He has even taken on the task of contacting his teammates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every few days I’ll say, ‘Hey, how have you been?’ and ‘Hey, we miss you at workouts,’” Mendoza said.

When the pandemic started, Evans said he split up the seniors on the team to contact their teammates instead of giving the responsibility to other coaches. Mendoza was the most eager to talk to everyone on a regular basis.

“He may have been more eager than some of the guys that had been playing on Friday night,” Evans said.

The head coach said he wants his team manager to take his positive attitude into the coaching or training ranks after he finishes his high school and collegiate careers. Evans said he knows Mendoza will have to overcome some obstacles with his muscular disability.

“Some college is gonna have to see past the disability to see what he’s capable of and not look at what he’s not capable of,” Evans said. “He’s not gonna let anybody figure out what he’s not capable of.”

The impact of Mendoza’s work has already made itself evident for the Mustangs in the form of their 2019 season record. Wheeler closed out the season with a 10-3 overall mark, the program’s best record under Evans.

“You can’t put a value on a kid that provides that kind of service to others,” Evans said.

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