Wellington High School senior Zander Vargas, who played running back and safety for the Crusader football team, was surrounded by family and friends Friday afternoon as he signed a letter of intent to play for Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln.

“He always wanted to play college football,” his father, Lonnie Vargas, said. “I’m happy for him.”

His mother, Holly Vargas, said, "He loved the game before he could even play."

Zander Vargas started playing football in the first grade, coached by his dad. He would go to sleep at night, holding his football to practice not letting it go.

Never tall, Vargas is now about 5-foot-six. He has usually been the shortest kid on either side of the ball, but his height was never an issue. His parents encouraged him.

"We've had a lot of downers," Holly Vargas said. "People told us he's short. He won't be able to play. I said, 'We'll give this a try. We'll just be open minded and keep praying and be positive. I don't think he ever thought, 'I'm not big enough to do this.'"

Zander Vargas used his height to his advantage on the football field, running and hiding behind players and getting around them, developing his quickness.

Many of the guys he played alongside in high school, Vargas had been playing football with since they were in first or second grade, such as his friend, Zane Cornejo, who has signed up to play for McPherson College this fall. The chemistry was there and a bond of trust and brotherhood developed with his teammates.

"On the field, the guys listened to him," Holly Vargas said. "They respected him. I think it went both ways. He respected them also."

Zander Vargas said his family, coaches and teachers have “prepared me, mentally. I appreciate everything they’ve done for me and helping me get to where I am.” 

He plans to major in athletic training at Nebraska Wesleyan and possibly minor in psychology.

Vargas’s high school football coach Zane Aguilar said Vargas has been given “an awesome opportunity.” It is exciting to see Crusaders continue their education and “continue to play a game they love.”