The Story Behind “Family”

The Texas Story Project.

Los Fresnos, Texas is like any other little football-crazed town—where Friday night lights are what everyone looks forward to. In this community, phrases such as, “It takes a village to raise one child” ricochet off high school walls and car windows. In this community, football players emblazon the word “FAMILY” with pride on their backs, instead of their last names. This is the community that supported my family when tragedy struck and continues to live out the legend that is Leo Aguilar, Jr..

Leonardo “Leo” Aguilar Jr. was the fourth of five sons. He was born to Leonardo and Lydia Gomez Aguilar on December 29, 1952. In 1970, he was the starting fullback for the fighting Los Fresnos Falcons football team. Leo was loved and adored by all, he represented his family name well and made them proud. He served as the Spanish Club president, president of the Youth Group of St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church, and Future Homemakers of America Sweetheart. In late September of that same year, he suffered a severe neck injury during football practice and was hospitalized. On October 10, 1970, he passed away. Los Fresnos was not used to tragedies and this one shook the entire town. Leo’s football jersey, #44, was retired and went unused for 46 years. In the fall of 1988, the school Board of Trustees of the Los Fresnos CISD voted to rename Falcon Field to "Leo Aguilar Memorial Stadium", which it is still named today.

In 1971, the Leo Aguilar Foundation was born. This foundation was created by Leo’s four other brothers in his loving memory. In honor of Leo’s leadership and commitment to his community, the foundation rewards scholarships to deserving Los Fresnos High School seniors every year so they may be able to further their education. Originally, this was done as a thank you to the community for its moral support and for helping financially. Since then, the Aguilar family has made it their personal mission to give back. They host an annual 5K walk/run, and a golf tournament to raise money for the scholarship fund. What started as an athletic scholarship, led to both academic and athletic scholarships. Now, 2 athletic scholarships and 6 academic scholarships are awarded.

#44. Leo’s jersey was retired for 46 years, until the fall of 2016. Since then, at every home game, one extremely lucky football player is chosen to wear his jersey. This player is not only selected based on his football talents, but how close they are with the community, how they treat people and how they show leadership. They are to be the embodiment of Leo Aguilar Jr. and they are to wear the jersey with pride. The passing of my great uncle is the reason “FAMILY” is displayed on the backs of Falcons all throughout the field. Los Fresnos is a family and they uplift each other, support one another and love Falcon football.

Sydney Flores is a sophomore at St. Mary's University who is studying in Accounting. She was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. She is a Greehey Scholar, a member of the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, and a part-time barista at Starbucks. She is passionate about giving back to her community. She volunteers with VITA, the Down Syndrome Association and the San Antonio Food Bank. She loves to dance, travel and spend time with her family and dog, Odin.

Join 65 others and favorite this

Related Stories

See All Stories »
Share Your Story

Make your mark on Texas History

Share Your Story
Browse All Stories

Read stories from people across Texas

Browse All Stories