Former Ceres High School football standout Diego Fernandez will begin his gridiron career at Capital University later this year.
The Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) announced plans on July 2 to offer fall sports during the coronavirus pandemic.
Competition will begin on Sept. 19.
No playoffs will be played as the season was shortened due to COVID-19.
“I’m glad we can still play football,” Fernandez said. “At the same time, I have concerns. There’s a lot of contact in football. We just don’t know how things are going to be. There are a lot of questions with the pandemic going around. I’m going to do whatever I can to be as safe as possible.”
“The health and safety of our student-athletes is of utmost concern as well as our campuses and the communities they are in,” OAC Commissioner Tim Gleason said. “We believe we have reached a great balance of health and safety while at the same time providing a vibrant sports schedule for the student-athletes.”
Fernandez, a 5-foot-9 255-pound offensive lineman, will be required to sign a COVID-19 waiver to participate.
"At the end of the day, I’m deciding to play the game I love. I understand the risks. I’m okay with signing the waiver."At the end of the day, I’m deciding to play the game I love. I understand the risks. I’m okay with signing the waiver.
“It’s life,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m deciding to play the game I love. I understand the risks. I’m okay with signing the waiver. Compared to California, Ohio is doing better in terms of cases and spikes.”
Fernandez will move to Ohio on Aug. 5.
He’ll practice for the first time with Capital University on Aug. 10.
Capital University’s schedule will consist of nine conference games.
“We’ve had Zoom meetings with our coaches and athletic director, and the conference’s health director,” Fernandez said. “I’ve tried to stay in shape. Places are closed. I’ve been exercising at local parks. It’s not the same as gyms. But you got to adapt. I don’t have weights at my house. I’ve been very creative with my workouts. I use boxes, books, milk jugs and whatever I find around my house.”
Fernandez’s class schedule will consist of in-person and online courses.
“Only out-of-state students and athletes will be living on campus,” he said. “We’re going to have to follow a lot of procedures for COVID-19. The first couple days there, we’re going to have to quarantine ourselves. You have to wear a mask pretty much all day. The only time you can take it off is when you’re in your dorm.”
Fernandez will be the first person in his immediate family to attend college.
It will also mark the first time Fernandez leaves home for an extended period of time.
Diego and his older brother were raised by their mother Elizabeth in a single-parent household.
“My mom’s been a huge role model,” he said. “She’s my everything. We have a special relationship. It’s a bond that will never be broken.”
A total of six different schools expressed interest in signing Fernandez after seeing his highlights on Hudl, an online and mobile platform for video sharing
He narrowed his college choices to two—Capital University and St. Thomas University.
He visited both campuses before committing to Division-III Capital.
“I did the research and picked the school I felt was best for me,” Fernandez said. “When I visited Capital, I met my coaches and teammates. They were very welcoming. It felt like a family. It’s going to be a great environment to be in inside and outside of football.”
Fernandez signed a national letter of intent with Capital University in January.
“I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for my family,” he said. “They always told me college was super important and it would get be a better future. It’s a dream come true. It shows my hard work in school and football paid off.”
Capital University posted an 0-10 overall record and finished in last place in the Ohio Athletic Conference (0-9) last fall. Eleven players were lost to graduation.
“It’s a new challenge,” Fernandez said. “Everyone is faster and stronger. I have to get adjusted to that and play my best ball. I’ll learn the new system my first year.”
Fernandez played four seasons of football at Ceres High, including two varsity.
He started at center his senior and junior years.
Fernandez played the position for the first time at the youth level with the Ceres Jr. Bulldogs.
“I’ve been playing football since I was nine years old,” he said. “It’s a game I grew to love. You have to outsmart your opponent, not only mentally but physically.”
“I’ve played other positions,” Fernandez added. “They’re not as challenging as center. You have to not only do your job but make sure everything’s going right. Being a lineman, you have to be humble. You’re playing for the love of the game and not glory. You don’t get any (individual) credit.”
Fernandez will major in communications at Capital University.
He wants to become a journalist or broadcaster in the sports field.
“Being a first-generation college student, I’m setting an example for other family members,” he said. “It truly is a special feeling.”