Valderrama making his mom — and team — proud
“I keep a piece of paper with her name on it in my helmet. Every game I dedicate to her.” —Dieruff ’s Alejandro Valderrama
What’s the key to returning kickoffs for touchdowns?
For Dieruff High senior Alejandro Valderrama, it takes blocking, speed, instincts, a seam and perhaps a piece of paper in his helmet.
Valderrama had two 85-yard kickoff returns in a win over Pleasant Valley and added a 75-yard score against East Stroudsburg North. He was the key to the Huskies’ wins the past two weeks after they started 0-4.
“I play for my mother and the rest of the guys know that,” Valderrama said. “I keep a piece of paper with her name on it in my helmet. Every game I dedicate to her.
“When we go on special teams, I grab my blockers and tell them I need them. I tell them if you block for me, I’ll make you look pretty.”
Valderrama said his mother, Elizabeth Rivera, is sick and has had several seizures. She tries to make the Huskies’ home games.
“She wants me to be a good student too,” Valderrama said. “I attend the Executive Academy Charter School, and they’re big on being a good student and getting my work done. They support me too.”
Rivera couldn’t make the game at Pleasant Valley, but she was in her son’s heart as he had his first big moment.
“Coach [Dave] Lutte told me to play for my mom and had me write down her name, put it in my helmet and think about that paper,” Valderrama said. “So PV had just scored and there was 35 seconds left in the first half, and I said to myself that I was going to bring the kick back for my mom and [I] did a little prayer in my head.”
Valderrama said he was looking at the blocks and saw a little seam.
“I took it, and as I’m running down the sideline I was thinking ‘This is for my mom,’ ” Valderrama said. “I got into the end zone and my first thought was, ‘Damn, if only my mom was here.’ But she was at the North game, and at the end she came out and hugged me and was crying.
“For me, it was the best feeling. She’s been going through a tough time and it hurts. But I do it for her and everyone else who supports us.”
Lutte, in his first season as Dieruff’s head coach, said Valderrama’s returns have given the team a lift.
“I had one of those coach’s moments in the Pleasant Valley game when he was supposed to go up the middle and he took it to the outside,” Lutte said. “I started yelling ‘No, no, no … follow your blockers!’
“And the next [thing] you know he was gone, [so] I just shut up.”
Lutte, whose team will go for its third straight win at Pocono Mountain West on Saturday afternoon, said of Valderrama: “You win with kids like this.”
Valderrama, who is 5-foot-11 and 167 pounds, wants to play college football. He plays running back on offense and outside linebacker on defense for Dieruff.
Valderrama wants to share his success with his teammates, coaches — especially special teams coach Rocky Wilson — and the rest of the Dieruff football family.
Most of all, though, he wants to share it with his mother.
“She’s here for me, she’s here for the team, she brings water and snacks and everything she can,” Valderrama said. “She does so much. Unfortunately, she’s sick.”
Dieruff senior Alejandro Valderrama has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in the last two games.