Roque Vela, Jr.

The induction ceremony is at 7 p.m. at the Laredo Country Club on Saturday, but tickets are sold out and won’t be sold at the door.

In South Texas, football reigns supreme. On a given crisp Thursday, Friday or Saturday fall night, teams take to the field locked in battle. A few of Laredo’s gridiron giants have made the leap from the ranks of the local high school field to university stadiums. Roque Vela Jr. stands out from the rest.

Vela’s football career began at C.L. Milton Elementary, where he played flag football under Coach Rocha. Vela’s talent was a certainty. While at Lamar Middle, he showed prowess on the field, earning Most Valuable Player honors during the 1990-91 season.

At Nixon, Vela proved invaluable to the Mighty Mustang football team. He earned an array of honors, including being named to the All-District Defense team for two years and All-City Defensive Back in 1994-95 — when the Mustangs reigned supreme as city champions. College programs took notice of his ability.

He chose Hardin Simmons University, beginning his collegiate football career, earning several honors along the way, including Conference Honorable Mention and All-Conference.

Later, he transferred to McMurry University where he was a standout for the team, with the honors continuing. He earned All-Conference, Player of the Week, National Player of the Week, and was part of the National Team of the Week— this honor happening three times. He was also a member of the three-time conference championship team. During his collegiate career, he appeared in 40 games, starting 36 of them.

The statistics speak for themselves:

  •     191 Total tackles
  •     15 interceptions — 156 Return yards
  •     Two touchdowns
  •     Nine blocked kicks

After graduation, Vela made the jump to professional sports, playing for the Arena Football League. He started 12 games, intercepted seven passes — returning for a total of 71yards, including one for a touchdown. He earned IFL Player of the Week honors and was named an IFL AllStar.

Athletics runs in Vela’s DNA, as his family owns and operates Jett Bowl in Laredo. In 2002, he won the state bowling tournament in Austin.