fan vote to win a fan favorite award.
The contestants are Farmington's Jermey Klepac, Piedra Vista's Wyatt Hardy and Kirtland Central's Christian Mackey.
Klepac, a senior, was the 4A Boys' Soccer Player of the Year, while leading the Scorps' soccer team to a second-place finish at state. He also won the state track and field championships in the long jump, 300-meter hurdles and was a member of Farmington's title winning 4X 200 meter relay team.
Hardy was a captain on the PV football team and won a state title in wrestling to go along with PV's third wrestling team title in as many years during his senior season. Hardy also was a member of the 4x100 and 4x400 meter relay teams that won state for PV and helped PV win the team title in state track and field.
Mackey was an all-state football and basketball player for Kirtland Central as a junior. He also won the state track and field state championships in shot put and discus.
Voting will go on until the morning of Tuesday, May 28.
AZTEC — Adam Lucero has been a sports hero who has transcended the boundaries of San Juan County the past two years.
The 2012 NMPreps.com Mr. Football award winner has been named The Daily Times San Juan County Male Athlete of the Year for the second year in a row for his accomplishments on the football field and for his 4A wrestling state championship at 170 pounds.
“I am so very proud to win it two years in a row, and I feel even more proud to say I played in District 1-4A,” Lucero said. “To win the award in a competitive district like this means that much more to me.”
Lucero had stiff competition against Bloomfield's Mikey Loy when he won last year's award, and the decision this year was once again made difficult because of the athletic accomplishments of Piedra Vista's Wyatt Hardy and Farmington High's Jermey Klepac.
Hardy was a valuable member of the PV football team, which beat Lucero's Tigers in 2012. He also won a 160-pound 4A state wrestling title to go with PV's team title in February. During the spring season, Hardy was a member of two PV track and field relay teams that won state championships to help PV win the first team state championship ever for a school in Farmington.
“I think if anyone should be in the running, it is Wyatt Hardy,” Lucero said. “He is a great athlete who won a state wrestling title and tore it up in track. I can't say enough about Wyatt. If there was a way to share the award, I wouldn't mind because he is an incredible athlete.”
Lucero also narrowly edged out Klepac, who was named the 4A boys' soccer player of the year for the 2012 season as he led the Scorpions to a second-place finish in soccer. He also won three individual state titles in track and field to help FHS bring home a second-place finish and just the second track trophy in school history.
But, in the end, nobody could top the accomplishments of Mr. Football.
“Adam has earned everything he has achieved over his prep career. It is a testament to him to stand out among as many great athletes as we have here in the Four Corners,” said Aztec High's head football coach Matt Steinfeldt. “District 1-4A represents very well at the state level in every sport. Adam has always been a step above every individual in the district. He is the champion of champions.”
Lucero was unable to lead the Tigers to a second consecutive football state championship this year, but taking the team to the semifinals is a remarkable accomplishment considering the adversity the team faced, including the death of senior teammate Andrew Pope, who passed away after a car accident just weeks before the season began.
“Sometimes, I look back on it and I am almost more proud of this season than the year we won state because of the stuff we had to overcome,” Lucero said. “Andrew's death was big. We also had a coaching change that changed the face of the team and the season. I had a couple of injuries in there, and our schedule was brutal. We went from getting our butts kicked by Los Lunas the first game of the season to coming back to be within a couple of plays of beating them in the end of the semis. I was really proud of the team for overcoming the adversity we did.”
Winning for the first time in school history at the World Famous Bulldog Bowl in Artesia in overtime of the state quarterfinals was enough to solidify Lucero's status around the state.
“To beat Artesia in the Bulldog Bowl, that is what really caught my eye,” said NMPreps.com owner Kyle Henderson after awarding Lucero the Mr. Football award in December. “His numbers in that game were ridiculous. He had 394 yards, four touchdowns and no picks. That is just balling out in a big-time game, and there is no bigger stage than Artesia. For him to resurrect the team when it mattered most and then take the semifinal game against Los Lunas down to the wire, that is what being Mr. Football is all about. ... Adam Lucero is a perfect fit for Mr. Football. I am a huge fan of the kid, and it goes beyond his play on the field. If you had a son, you would want him to be like Adam Lucero.”
Earning the Mr. Football award made Lucero a recognizable figure around the state.
“I didn't really realize how big it was until I was a finalist for it. Two kids from the whole state? That is a really big deal,” he said. “When I won it, everybody started calling me Mr. Football. I would go around to random places across the state and people would recognize me as Mr. Football. I think that was the biggest award I could ever get.”
Winning the 2011 football state title seems like a lifetime ago to Lucero when he looks back on everything that has happened since. But his “Superman” leap over the goal line for a two-point conversion to give Aztec a 28-27 lead against Goddard is something that will follow him everywhere.
No position in sports draws more attention than being a quarterback.
“Every sport has pressure of big games and stuff, but I definitely think being a quarterback in this community is tougher for a number of reasons. I was looking back the other day when we were making the final drive to win against Goddard. I was 16 years old. I was just a kid,” Lucero said. “There was so much pressure that came with that, but the coaches prepare you for stuff like that. It is hard to overcome, and I couldn't have done it without my coaches and family.”
When people talk about Lucero, they immediately mention his ability to come up with the biggest plays when his team needs him most.
“When you have the abilities Adam has, you make huge plays. When you make one of them, you get credibility amongst your teammates,” Steinfeldt said. “Adam had a lifetime of big plays. Every time he made one, it made him a larger person in that locker room.”
Lucero said he has the ability of playing without the fear of making a mistake.
“I have been asked a lot of times what it is about those big moments. When I go back and look at those situations, I am not thinking about how big the moment is at the time or what we have to lose or gain. I just take a deep breath and play,” he said. “Nobody cares about you personally if you win or lose. If I went out and threw a pick-six and we lost, nobody was going to feel bad for me. It would have been my fault. If it is going to be on anyone's shoulders, I want it to be on mine. I want to be that guy who comes through. I don't want to sit back and let anyone else have it. I like that pressure and thrive under it because I want to win so badly. I don't want to see anybody else make the mistake. I want to either make the mistake or be the one to come through.”
Lucero was one of two players to be named to the football all-state team for both offense and defense. He was named to the all-state team every year since being named to the defensive team as a sophomore.
Though he will always be remembered for his accomplishments on the football field, Lucero said the fondest memory of his senior season will be winning a 170-pound state title in wrestling after falling just short in the years leading up to his senior season.
“Wrestling was the most special thing. I don't know how to compare it to a state title in football because they are two totally different things, but I have said wrestling almost feels more special,” he said. “In wrestling, it is just you out there. I had been working since I was four years old for that title. Me and my brother and dad spent countless hours to win that one state championship.”
Lucero will play football for Eastern New Mexico University next season. He is hoping to continue his athletic career as long as he can.
“Sports are still going to be my No. 1 priority. I love football. I am going to ride this out as long as I can,” he said. “I don't care if it is at Eastern, a junior college or if I ever get to Division I. I love the sport, and I am going to study hard and work hard. That's what my dad raised me to do. I will take this as far as I can and see where it goes.”
Though Lucero hopes to match his success from high school on the collegiate level, he is looking forward to being just a normal kid on a college campus after years in the spotlight in Aztec.
“I couldn't have done anything without the community of Aztec behind me. I am not going to say it is hard doing what you do, but you get criticized at times. Aztec always has your back when that happens,” he said. “You can always expect them to help you out with anything. You go to a gas station and people are asking how you are and if you need anything. I appreciate that. You get all these funny nicknames when you walk around town. It is funny and cool at times, but sometimes I want to be just another kid who can walk around. I love all the support, but I want to go around and have normal conversations. Sometimes you don't always want to go out in public or read what is online about you because it is not always the best thing. It will be nice to not have that anymore.”
Editor's note: The athletes were chosen by The Daily Times sports editor John Livingston and sports reporter Joshua Perry for their newsworthy athletic performances and contributions to their team(s) and school, not on statistics alone.
John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.