Q&A With New El Paso High Football Head Coach Ray Aguilar Jr.
Ray Aguilar Jr. spent two seasons reshaping the San Elizario football team from a winless team in 2017 to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2018 (6-5) and 2019 (3-8).
Now, Aguilar Jr. will move up from Class 4A to 5A Division II to take over an El Paso High football program that hasn't seen a winning season since 2016. The Tigers went 0-10 in 2019.
I got a chance to talk with coach about his recent hire, goals for this program and more. Check out the conversation and listen to the full interview below!
Q - Adrian Broaddus
A - Ray Aguilar Jr.
Q: [You] spent two seasons reshaping the San Elizario football program and now you've been named the next head coach at El Paso High. First off coach, how are you maneuvering through this worldwide pandemic that we're going through?
A: It's been different, it's been a challenge but it's been a lot of fun. It's been a great opportunity to spend some time with my son so it's good.
Q: I met you back in the summer when we had your program at San Eli on the show. I was so impressed because your players were well-spoken, you helped solidify the program within two seasons and you're now the head coach at El Paso High. What's the transition process been like?
A: It's a different time right now so unfortunately, I wasn't able to tell the players at San Eli person-to-person. We had to do it over a video-conference setting which wasn't the best thing but they're great kids and the administration out there is a really, really special group. I appreciate everything they did for me and the opportunity they gave to me. I know they are going to hire a great person to keep the momentum moving forward.
Being at El Paso High is something really special to me. It means a lot to my family. My mom graduated from there. She passed away when I was in high school but she was a part of the band there. I understand the pride and tradition that's at El Paso High. Unfortunately, we're in this time but I'm a glass-half-full type of guy. We're taking it day-by-day and doing the best with what we have.
Q: You all move up from Class 4A to Class 5A. Take me through the biggest differences that you see between the districts.
A: This district is a fun one because it's some of the older schools in town and the old-time rivalries. Again, I'm a really big believer in that tradition and that pride aspect of a school. It's definitely there in this district. Bowie, Jeff, Austin—they're all these older schools and every week you're strapping up against programs that have been here for a really long time. It's a lot of fun, a challenge. A lot of great coaches, a lot of great competitions. I enjoy challenges so this is just a new one and I'm excited to be here.
I also can't go to an interview without saying this... I hear 'bring the claw home' all the time and I have a lot of respect for Coach [Eric] Pichardo and all he's done. But that's one of the goals I have in mind, we got to beat Austin. To any alumni listening, it's definitely on my mind. I want to bring the claw home.
Q: Take me back to the offseason of 2017 when you took over a winless program at San Elizario. You took them to 6-5 that first season which was the first playoff appearance for San Eli since 1999. How will you use that kind of offseason where you take a program that has gone winless—like El Paso High in 2019—and implement that mentality this year?
A: It's creating that environment where kids really want to be a part of the program. That's what we did at San Eli and that's what I hope to do at El Paso High. I'm a big believer in culture and developing relationships with the kids. That's just who I am as a coach. It's not going to be any different at El Paso High. It's a matter of getting everyone on board.
Q: Why is now the right time after back-to-back playoff appearances?
A: For a couple reasons. I left San Eli in a good position where if they bring someone in now, they can continue the success that we started. On top of that, family-wise it was the best decision for me. I just had a newborn son who turned four months yesterday. Being able to be closer to home and closer to my wife and closer to home, that helps a lot. And the pride and tradition of El Paso High. There's not too many times when an opportunity like this opens up. Coaching is one of those jobs that you have to take the opportunities that come your way and you never know when it'll come your way. When it came, it felt right and I really am excited to be an El Paso High Tiger.
Q: What were some of your favorite memories at San Eli?
A: We had a lot of support from San Eli from the community. They did a great job filling the stands. Probably my favorite memories at San Eli—you never pay attention to it during the game—but after the game, you turn around and the stadium is packed. That's one of those things that I'll never forget. It was pretty special and pretty cool for me to see.
Q: Factoring in COVID-19, how do you look to implement a new system at El Paso High with all of the challenges set before us?
A: This is going to sound weird coming from a coach, but I'm not big on X's and O's. They say 'Jimmy's and Joe's over X's and O's'. I do really believe that. If you develop your [players] the right way, the X's and O's will take care of themselves. Then once we get some time to spend with the kids, we will worry about the X's and O's. Right now the priority is getting the kids to be elite academically, socially and physically.