Sideline Pass: Jim Bradford 11/6
By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
The Olathe North Eagles were getting ready for their pregame team meeting on Oct. 24 when Mauricio Chio got a tap on the shoulder.
“Coach Wier told me that I needed to go to Mr. Herman’s (the North Athletic director) office,” Mauricio said. “I had no idea why. I thought, ‘Oh, no. What have I done?’”
When he arrived at the office and opened the door, Jason Herman was nowhere to be found, but there were two other people there waiting — his parents.
No big deal, right? Or maybe seeing your parents in an administrator’s office is the biggest deal.
It was a big deal, alright, but not for the reasons you may think. To say Mauricio was surprised would be a bit of an understatement.
You see, the Olathe North senior receiver and defensive back hadn’t seen his parents in nearly a year.
“I had no idea they were coming,” Mauricio said. “I had trouble getting the door open, but then I opened it and there they were.”
Javier Chio and his wife Leticia Mendez had made the trip from Chihuahua, Mexico to see their son play football in the United States for the first time.
“We hadn’t been able to see him play before, so we wanted to watch him and check out some colleges up here,” Javier said with Mauricio serving as an interpreter. “We told some people up here (at North), but made sure to let them know not to tell Mauricio.”
Mauricio’s parents arrived just in time to see North play Gardner-Edgerton in week two of district play. They also were on hand Friday night as the Eagles beat old nemesis Olathe South. The Eagles earned a spot in the Class 6A playoffs and a date with Blue Valley Northwest in the first round with their win.
Having his parents around for the final two regular season games of his senior year was pretty special for Mauricio, making or the perfect ending to a high school career that began in the northern Mexico town that produces futbol players, but not necessarily football players.
That’s why he made his way to the US and Olathe to live with some close family friends.
Mauricio started playing football as a 10-year-old when his father — a football coach in Mexico — finally allowed him to take up the game at the club level.
“I’ve wanted to play football since I was a little kid,” Mauricio said. “My dad played and when I was little, he thought it was best for me to wait a little bit.
“And like every kid, I dreamed about playing football.”
Forget that he lived in Mexico. He dreamed of playing football — in high school and hopefully even in college. He kept bugging his dad about the possibility of playing in America, but his dad wanted to be sure he was ready.
When he was finishing what would be the equivalent of middle school in Mexico, his father came to him about the option of moving to the States, going to school and playing football.
“It all happened so fast,” Mauricio said. “I was so happy to get the opportunity. We talked to Coach Pete Flood (the North coach at the time) and started the process.
“I didn’t know what to expect. It was a whole new world when I got here.”
As Mauricio got acclimated to life in the United States and Olathe, his game got acclimated along the way.
He dressed for varsity games as a sophomore — his first year in Olathe — then got even more playing time last year as a junior and has excelled on both sides of the ball this year, including catching two touchdown passes with his parents in the stands Friday night in the Eagles’ 28-0 win over South.
For Mauricio, the biggest challenge, aside from not seeing his family for nearly a year, was learning to speak English and play football — at the same time. For many, it’s tough enough to do just one.
His dedication to football and his new school even forced him to make another tough decision last spring when he decided to stay in Olathe last summer instead of going back to Mexico. After all, there were summer weights and 7-on-7.
Now, in the midst of his third year at North, Mauricio has found his niche.
“It’s really maturity,” he said. “I learned so much form last year. Now, I can talk to the coaches about what happens on the field instead of just watching and learning from what I see.”
It was a difficult decision, to leave Mexico, but Mauricio knew if he wanted to pursue his dream, he had a much better opportunity to do it here in the US. Even if it meant leaving home.
Well, sort of.
“When I walked into North, I felt like I was at home,” he said. “This school has such a warm feeling. People treated me so well. And I’m so thankful for everyone at the school for how they welcomed me.”
It may not be the home he knew back in Mexico, but for Mauricio, North sure feels like home.
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