Gerardo Solorzano flashed a smile while being escorted by Central Valley football head coach Scott Edwards during Senior Night on Nov. 4 at Ceres High.
Two years earlier, Gerardo's first stint with the Hawks ended on bad terms.
Tapped to play quarterback at the varsity level as a sophomore, Solorzano clashed with Edwards and his selfish attitude rubbed teammates the wrong way.
Gerardo, who passed for 629 yards with five touchdowns and six interceptions, lost his starting position and transferred to another school.
"The first go around wasn't a very positive experience for he and I," Edwards said. "He was young. He wanted to be the man and wasn't ready to be. I didn't think he'd come back and I didn't want him back. We have a completely different relationship now. He's been fun to coach. It was a complete 180. I'm glad he came back."
"When I left, I was homesick," Solorzano said. "I never felt comfortable anywhere else. Coach (Edwards) gave me a second chance. I just tried to make the team better. That was my first goal. I was worried about getting wins. I worked hard. I trusted what coach had to say."
Gerardo spent time at Big Valley Christian and Ceres High prior to returning to Central Valley for his senior year.
"It was a big surprise to all of us," Hawks senior lineman Gabriel Quezada said. "None of us knew he was coming back. The first thing he did was gather the team at the end of practice and told everybody he was here to play and not bring the team down."
"His attitude changed," Central Valley senior lineman Erik Mejia said. "He put the team first."
"He made us a better team," Edwards said.
"I didn't want to let coach or the team down," Solorzano said. "Everything worked out."
Solorzano had a productive final season with the Hawks.
He was selected to the Western Athletic Conference Second Team.
Gerardo gained 606 yards and scored nine touchdowns while starting at fullback.
He carried the ball 104 times and averaged 5.8 yards per touch.
"I wasn't that vocal," Solorzano said. "I tried to lead by example. I tried to work hard and earn everybody's respect. I put the team above myself. When I was a sophomore, I felt like I already knew it all. I wasn't accepting what the coaches were trying to teach me. I wasn't coachable."
"He was a lot of fun to coach this year," Edwards said. "He was more positive and more of a team player. He accepted his role. He was physically vested in our scheme. His jersey always needed a lot of repair."
"He just did his job," Quezada said. "He didn't say much. He turned into a whole new player. He was a team player."
Solorzano filled a key role as Central Valley posted a program-best 9-2 overall record during its 11th season of competition.
The Hawks won their first conference title with a perfect 5-0 mark.
Central Valley secured its second consecutive playoff berth.
The Hawks beat Patterson for the first time in seven meetings.
Central Valley reeled off a team-record eight straight victories before losing to Antelope.
"It didn't feel real," Solorzano said while talking about his team's run of success. "But it happened. We pushed each other. We always held each other accountable if something bad happened. Everybody believed in each other. We thought of each other as one. It was a brotherhood."
Solorzano enjoyed reuniting with Edwards.
"It was a life-changer for me," Gerardo said. "I don't know where I'd be right now without him. He makes you feel he really believes in you. He's a blessing at Central Valley."
"When you become a team player, you become a better player," Edwards said.
Solorzano started training at the Performance Lab on McHenry Avenue in Modesto several weeks ago.
"They're getting me ready for college," he said. "I'm trying to get a scholarship."