The year was 1998.
The average cost of a new house was $129,300.
The cost of a gallon of gas was $1.15.
Armageddon was the highest-grossing movie at the box office.
Ceres High School grad Angel Rubio joined an elite sports fraternity when he was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seventh round of the NFL Draft.
Rubio was watching the second day of the draft with his coaches, father and girlfriend (now wife) when several teams contacted him.
“I spoke to Buffalo, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Washington in rapid fire,” said Rubio, a 6-foot-2 300-pound defensive lineman. “They all stated that they might be picking me with their next pick. Pittsburgh called back and Bill Cowher was on the line congratulating me and welcoming me to Pittsburgh Nation. I was beyond words but managed to squeeze out that I was ready to go to work. I hugged everyone in the room, called other family members and then did some interviews over the phone.”
“My first practice was an eye-opener,” Rubio added. “It was during rookie mini-camp. None of the veterans were even there. Everyone was flying around the field, including myself. We all wanted to show that we deserved to be on that field and wanted to earn each other’s respect. The speed is incredible. Every moment is done at max tempo, and if it wasn’t, it was done again. I played college ball at a D-I AA program and while we had fast guys on that level, the overall game wasn’t as fast as what I was seeing. It took me that first season to adjust to it.”
Rubio played two full seasons in the NFL and was released after his third preseason camp.
He spent time with the Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals.
Rubio suited up for the Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL for one season prior to playing for the Arena Football League’s Orlando Predators, Detroit Fury, Dallas Desperados and Austin Wranglers for a combined six years.
“There is a ton of pressure placed on you when you play at such a high level,” he said. “That’s the hardest thing I faced. Pressure from the coaches to make plays, pressure from other players who want your position, pressure from media and fans. But through the pressure, the guys form tight bonds. You understand that here is someone like me that wants the same thing, that’s as driven and as focused as me and that will give everything to be on the field with me. That’s what was most enjoyable to me. The locker room and everything that goes on in there that only we know. It’s special.”
“I’m proud of my career,” Rubio added. “I was able to play the game that I love and retire when I had my fill. Not many can say that at all.”
Rubio enjoyed a success-filled career at Southeast Missouri State (1993-97).
He was inducted into the Redhawks Hall of Fame in 2014.
Rubio set program records for career sacks (21.5) and tackles for loss (44).
He racked up 330 tackles.
Rubio earned American Football Coaches Association, Sports Network, Associated Press and Football Gazette Division I-AA All-American honors during his senior year. He also won the Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year award.
“I was just a better-than-average player in high school,” he said. “I was athletic and had a natural feel for the game, but I only knew two moves, the rip and the bullrush, and my timing was horrible. I really sharpened my teeth and grew once I got to college. I made the decision before I arrived that I was going to buy into whatever was being taught and work harder than anyone else at it. I believed that if I could perform the drills and play like the guys that we studied on film I could do the same things.”
Rubio retired from pro football in 2007 and became a fireman soon after.
“I immediately enrolled in emergency medical training and a month later started fire academy,” said Rubio, who lives in Missouri with his family. “Normally they aren’t done at the same time but I was blessed to be in a position that I could. I graduated both academies as valedictorian and have been a career firefighter ever since. I’ve always loved to help people and have a firm belief that we all have been called to serve one another. In the fire service, I get to do that, but also there’s a bit of a locker room there. Firefighters are driven to be the best that they can be. They train constantly for the moment they need to perform, are under the pressure of possible death and as a result have a bond that not many can relate to.”
Rubio has been coaching football at Lutheran High School for the past six years.
Son Gabriel, a 6-foot-5 280-pound junior defensive tackle, committed to Notre Dame in June. He’s a four-star recruit.
“I’ve coached my son since he first played contact football,” Angel said. “I didn’t really want to coach. I wanted to just watch. But I quickly realized that I could teach him and his teammates more than anyone else could. After a couple years coaching at the high school level, Gabriel joined me. He’s started on both sides of the ball since freshman year and has grown into one of the best players in the country. I told him his freshman year that he was better than I was at his age and he uses that as motivation to continue to work hard for his dreams. Every parent wants their children to do better than they did. Gabe is definitely beating everything I have accomplished and will continue to do so. I’m quietly his biggest fan and am blessed to be along for the ride.”
Rubio (class of 1993) was enshrined into the Ceres High School Hall of Fame in 2008.
He starred in football, wrestling and track and field.
He earned Valley Oak League honors for all three sports.
Rubio anchored the Bulldogs’ lines on both sides of the ball on the gridiron for two seasons.
He started at offensive tackle and defensive end.
“You knew Angel would be successful at whatever he chose to do because of his intellect, maturity and work ethic,” said Drew Brown, Rubio’s defensive coordinator during his senior year with the Bulldogs. “He was a leader. He was well-spoken. For a big guy, he was light on his feet and very athletic. He was a heckuva player. He got better after high school. To make it to the NFL, he beat the odds.”