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NFL Expands Hispanic Heritage Foundation Partnership With ‘NFL Latino Youth Honors’ for Student-Athletes

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The National Football League and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) announced the inaugural “NFL Latino Youth Honors,” recognizing outstanding high school tackle and flag football athletes from around the country for their academic and athletic excellence. Eight of these exemplary student-athletes were announced today as finalists, representing each of the eight league divisions.

The NFL and the HHF have a rich history of celebrating excellence within Latino communities, and this year’s program is fully focused on honoring outstanding Latino youth football players. This initiative celebrates high school seniors from across NFL club markets who excel in the classroom and on the football field.

“The NFL is proud to again join forces with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation in the launch of this year’s ‘NFL Latino Youth Honors,’ where Latino students and their inspiring stories will motivate the next generation of fans and athletes of this great sport,” said Marissa Solis, NFL Senior VP/Global Brand & Consumer Marketing. “This initiative underscores the league’s commitment to fostering excellence, nurturing the next generation of football players and fans, and recognizing the outstanding contributions of Latino youth within the NFL community and beyond.”

Earlier this season, all 32 NFL teams were invited to submit exemplary student-athletes to be considered for this year’s program. As part of the selection process and after receiving hundreds of applications between August and October, a total of two students (one male and one female) were identified and nominated by many of the league’s 32 clubs. The selection criteria for the “NFL Latino Youth Honors” program includes:

  • Being a Latino/Hispanic High School Senior.
  • A flag or tackle football player.
  • Based in or near the 32 NFL team markets.
  • Be in good academic standing (minimum GPA 3.0).
  • Must demonstrate commitment to his/her community.
  • Verifiable football stats (season and career), with designation of tackle or flag.

This selection process led to 56 remarkable student-athletes being nominated for the 2023 NFL Latino Youth Honors, many of whom were honored and celebrated locally during Latin Heritage Month events held by their nominating teams. Once the NFL and HHF received all nominations, a panel convened to choose eight outstanding finalists — each representing a club market.

The eight finalists will each receive a grant award that can be used for college and are set to participate in a variety of special events taking place in Las Vegas during Super Bowl LVIII Week, presented by Nationwide. Activities will be designed to provide mentorship, guidance and resources to pursue careers in professional sports. During that week, the NFL and HHF will also announce the national winner, with the recipient receiving an invitation to HHF’s National Youth Awards ceremony later in 2024.

“In partnership with the NFL, we are thrilled to announce the ‘NFL Latino Youth Honors’ program, celebrating the many talents and achievements of young Latinos who are not only exceptional athletes, but also outstanding students and leaders,” said Jose Antonio Tijerino, President and CEO of HHF. “We look forward to discovering and celebrating Latino talent throughout the league’s 32 club markets while highlighting the bright future that lies ahead.”

This year’s eight “NFL Latino Youth Honors” finalists are profiled below (click here for full bios):

AFC SOUTH: Brictani Platas, Jacksonville, FL, nominated by the Jacksonville Jaguars
With an impressive track record that includes 62 flag pulls, 6 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 6 interceptions and 18 pass breakups in her career, Brictani Platas has demonstrated her incredible dominance on the field as a cornerback for Orange Park High School. Off the gridiron, Platas has a 3.2 GPA while balancing school, sports, clubs, work and taking care of her little sisters seamlessly and also being a good role model for her classmates and teammates every day.

NFC SOUTH: Gabriela Ruiz, Tampa, FL, nominated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In her two years as a standout WR/DB on the Plant City High School varsity team, Gabriela Ruiz has achieved 86 flag pulls, 8 interceptions on defense and 13 receptions for 126 yards on offense. As a first-generation American, Ruiz embodies hard work and determination, pushing herself to excel both academically and athletically. With an outstanding 6.9 GPA, she is not only a dedicated athlete, but also an exceptional student.

AFC WEST: Jeilani Davis, Inglewood, CA, nominated by the Los Angeles Chargers
Jeilani Davis, an 18-year-old standout from Mater Dei High School, is a star safety that received 14 Division I scholarship offers before committing to the University of Utah. A Mater Dei Scholar Athlete, Davis was the recipient of the Mater Dei Football Coaches’ Award, and holds a 3.2 GPA. Davis’ commitment to excellence isn’t limited to football; he’s recognized for his community service, including his contributions to the OG Ducks Youth Football League.

NFC EAST: Juan Minaya, Newark, NJ, nominated by the New York Giants
With a four-year starting position on the offensive line for Paramus Catholic High School, Juan Minaya is recognized as one of New Jersey’s top high school football players, earning a full scholarship to the University of Miami due to his remarkable skill and dedication on the field. Off the gridiron, Minaya has showcased his resilience by transforming his cumulative GPA from 2.0 to 3.0 after the pandemic, demonstrating a strong work ethic and determination.

NFC WEST: Julian Rodriguez, Gilroy, CA, nominated by the San Francisco 49ers
Julian Rodriguez, a remarkable student-athlete from Christopher High School, shines on the football field as a dedicated starting guard for the school’s varsity team, contributing to their impressive 2022 season (9-2) and a promising 2023 season (9-1 so far). Off the field, Rodriguez’s character is equally impressive, with an outstanding commitment to community service, amassing 100 volunteer hours and a strong track record of academic excellence, boasting a GPA of 4.41. His ability to balance academic rigor with athletic demands showcases his adaptability and tenacity, qualities that make him an exceptional asset both on and off the football field.

AFC EAST: Natalia Lopez, Oakland Park, FL, nominated by the Miami Dolphins
Natalia Lopez, a 17-year-old dynamo from Pompano Beach High School, is a rising star in girls flag football. With impressive 2023 season stats, including 32 receptions, 245 yards, 3 TDs and 12 sacks, she’s been a key playmaker and both a running back and rusher for her team. Beyond the field, Lopez shines as a student-athlete, boasting a remarkable 5.03 GPA and serving as her class president for all four years. Her commitment to her community and the empowerment of women is evident through her roles as the Women Empowerment Club Vice President, Rho Kappa President and MOSS Club Parliamentarian.

AFC NORTH: Peter Jaden Gonzalez, Pittsburgh, PA, nominated by the Pittsburgh Steelers
Boasting All-State and All-WPIAL honors, Peter Jaden Gonzalez is also recognized as one of the top 100 wide receivers in the nation for the Class of 2024. A star at Pittsburgh Central Catholic, his combination of speed and athleticism, including a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and a 40-inch vertical, sets him apart on the field. Off the gridiron, Gonzalez is a well-rounded young man, carrying a 4.2 GPA and prioritizing his family, friends and faith. He is known for his passion for catching touchdowns and will continue his football journey at Penn State University.

NFC NORTH: Yeniah Matos Delgado, Cicero, IL, nominated by the Chicago Bears
In the 2022 season, Yeniah Matos Delgado served as the starting quarterback and linebacker at Morton East High School, earning the title of team MVP with 5 interceptions on defense and 9 touchdowns as the quarterback. However, she doesn’t stop at being a star on the field; Delgado also excels academically with a 3.6 GPA and as a natural leader who motivates her peers. She’s a passionate advocate for her Puerto Rican heritage and demonstrated admirable resilience in the face of adversity after the devastating loss of her mother.

Below is the full list of 2023 “NFL Latino Youth Honors” nominees (finalists in bold):

Aaliyah Jamie

Las Vegas Raiders

Eleny Nava Pineda

Washington Commanders

Joseph Garcia

Buffalo Bills

Mateo Rodriguez

Arizona Cardinals

Adrianna Gauna

Buffalo Bills

Eli Fernandez

Seattle Seahawks

Joshua Gauardado

Dallas Cowboys

Matthew Vividor

Indianapolis Colts

Alessandra Campos

New England Patriots

Fernando Pena Sanchez

Minnesota Vikings

Josiah Hernandez

Los Angeles Rams

Miguel Mendez

Philadelphia Eagles

Alex Harris

Cleveland Browns

Fiona Graham

New York Jets

Juan Alvear

Houston Texans

Narciso “J.R.” Felipe

Denver Broncos

Alyssa Bueno

Los Angeles Chargers

Gabriel Solares

New York Jets

Juan Minaya

New York Giants

Natalia Lopez

Miami Dolphins

Brictani Platas

Jacksonville Jaguars

Gabriela Godoy

Houston Texans

Julian Rodriguez

San Francisco 49ers

Nayramis Rodriguez Lugo

Baltimore Ravens

Bryan Reyes Marquez

Kansas City Chiefs

Gabriela Ruiz

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Julian Torres

Las Vegas Raiders

Olivia Rijo

New York Giants

Carmen Vasquez

Pittsburgh Steelers

Ilyana Flores

Arizona Cardinals

Junior Avila

Atlanta Falcons

Peter Jaden Gonzalez

Pittsburgh Steelers

Chris Marin

Washington Commanders

Jadie McCreery

Cleveland Browns

Kevin Mendez

Green Bay Packers

Rianna Robbins

Green Bay Packers

Daniel Bravo Arellano

Tennessee Titans

Jaiven Diaz

New England Patriots

Kimberly Pamela Alvarez-Cabrera

Atlanta Falcons

Santino Escobar

Jacksonville Jaguars

David Flores

Detroit Lions

Jaydee Flores

Philadelphia Eagles

Kyle Ramirez

Chicago Bears

Savana Johnson

Dallas Cowboys

DeAnna Perez Hall

Pittsburgh Steelers

Jeilani Davis

Los Angeles Chargers

Luzianna Espinoza

San Francisco 49ers

Valeria Dominguez

Denver Broncos

Diana Alexa Vela Alonso

Minnesota Vikings

Joevanni Rivera

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Maria Murillo

Los Angeles Rams

Yeniah Matos Delgado

Chicago Bears

Eduardo Nunez

Miami Dolphins

Jose Padilla Galvan

Kansas City Chiefs

Markcos Montes

Seattle Seahawks

Zuleyka Fuentes-Diaz

Tennessee Titans

Learn more about the NFL Latino Youth Honors program.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Julio Pabon

    December 20, 2023 at 1:29 pm

    Nice reading about H.S.S students in the football world.

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