Where did you live prior to attending ASU? I grew up in Ontario CA. My mother still lives there.
What was the biggest transitional issue you faced when you started college? The biggest issue was maturing as a student and as a young man. Not having bells, hall monitors and teachers taking roll every morning was a huge difference from high school. Being in charge of oneself after so many external controls are in place is hard. You have to develop a routine and a discipline to get you going…that and the fear of making Coach Hendo mad - who was in charge of the freshmen that year.
Did you have any pre-game rituals (same food, music, etc.) or bizarre superstitions during your playing days? I would always listen to Cypress Hill and Wu Tang Clan before every game. Occasionally some Metallica as well but for the most part B Real and Method Man were in my ears. The one bizarre superstition we had was in 1995 I brought this deer hoof I would hang in my locker. It was from my father’s Chevrolet pickup. It was made in Mexico and I would have some of the OL touch it before we went out to the field. All 1996 I would bring it out and the OL would go crazy! LOL!!!!!
What are you most proud of during your time at ASU? Teamwise I am most proud of what we did in 1996. After the heartbreak of 1995 where we lost close ones to UW, Stanford and the meltdown at home against the rats we knew what we had to do to win. We also knew we would beat Nebraska. The commitment, hard work and perseverance paid off in that 11-0 run and that is something I will forever be proud of.
Individually graduating is my most proud achievement. Yes, being an All-American, runner up for the Outland and Lombardi awards was special but to be a graduate of Arizona State and to call myself an alumnus is more meaningful to me than any individual athletic award - except maybe for the Hall of Fame.
What was your major and are you working in that field today? I had a plan at ASU. I majored in History with an emphasis in Latin American History and I minored in Spanish because I dreamed of going to law school after graduation and becoming an international business lawyer. I dreamed of brokering and writing big deals between the US and Mexico especially. The NFL of course became a reality for me so life took me in that direction, but if I could do it all over I would have gone to law school instead. Today I work for Phillips Law Group which is arguably the biggest and best personal injury firm in the state. We are a proud Sun Devil Athletics partner! I run intake, handle the online reputation, am the Spanish spokesman for TV and deal with problem clients.
What did you learn at ASU that has served you well throughout your life? One at a Time. Coach Bruce Snyder made us live it, buy into it and believe in it. It works! I went through some tough times in my life especially with addiction and this is what I had to revert to in order to survive and endure. Professionally when times get tough I preach this to my team and practice it myself. In the law business it’s cyclical and there are times you feel you’re in a chasm, but we always bounce back. For me, One at a Time, is a reason my department stays focused and continues to be successful.
What advice would you give yourself looking back? I would tell myself to go to law school first then try out for the NFL. Pro football wasn’t going anywhere and now I plan to attend law school in 2022. I think of all the years which have passed since 1996 and wonder to myself what I could have done with a law degree during that time.
What does it mean to you to be a Sun Devil? It means everything. All that I am, all I have done in life that’s been good is because I’m a Sun Devil. We’re a Maroon & Gold family. Since my graduation in 1996 we have now, I’m proud to say, four ASU graduates in my family: myself, my wife Jennifer (BSN 2017), my cousin Sgt. Armando De Lara US Army (BA 2012), my niece Ashley Nerat (BS 2020) and we have two graduates on the horizon: my nephew Eddie Medina who is currently a walk on for Coach Edwards on the football team and I’m proud to announce my son Cristian has transferred from Arizona Christian University and will be attending the Fulton College of Engineering with Eddie this fall.
If you could have dinner with any Sun Devil student-athlete/coach/staff member from the past or present, who would it be and why? Coach Bruce Snyder. He passed away in 2009 so he did not get to see us grow into the men we are. I would love to see him one last time and tell him what a great job he did with us because you look at that 1996 team and you see profound success. Whether it’s in business, medicine or just life in general that team has made a difference beyond the field. I know he would be so proud of us that we are living what he coached; One at a Time!
The Sun Devil Club would like to thank Juan for his continued support of Sun Devil Athletics. For more information on ways to get involved with the Sun Devil Club, please contact us by email at email@example.com or by phone at (480) 727-7700.