The football he plays did not end up being with the ball he dreamed of in his native Moyobamba, but he continues to hit the ball with that powerful right. Juan Velarde is that case of a Peruvian who breaks the molds to grow, to place the red and white colors in places where few imagine that a national can arrive.
Juan came to the United States with the dream of being a professional soccer player. He had played in his native Moyobamba, and passed tests with satisfaction in Alianza Lima and Inti Gas, but his destiny was to hit the ovoid. He is now a kicker for the University of North Carolina football team.
And it has done so successfully. Last season the NCCU Eagles won the NCCA Division I title, the most important championship at the collegiate level and with it he feels that he is taking good steps to become an NFL player, the monstrous tournament that the United States has in this discipline that ends with the Super Bowl.
“88% of NFL players have taken them from Division I colleges. Four years are required to be eligible. If you play well three you already have the opportunity to go, but in the case of kickers we play four years, “says Juan.
The kickers are the players who have little action in the matches, but their kick is decisive to solve the matches. They are the ones who make the clearance when their offense has failed to complete the ten yards in three attempts. In the fourth, we seek to get the ball as far away as possible and Juan is in charge of such responsibility. “Since they throw the ball at me, I only have two seconds to kick and there are nine people who come with everything to block me, to hurt me,” he tells us and that is why he trains every afternoon an hour more than his teammates.
Juan has even had to stop playing football, his great passion, since he has to keep his leg ‘accustomed’ to hitting the ovoid. “In football, we tend to kick and cross the leg, in football, the leg has to go straight and up,” he says.
Signed by Juan
His journey in American football
2018: TL Hanna High School (Secondary) first year playing football. I averaged 40 yards all season. He was chosen in the second team of the region.
2019: TL Hanna High School. Senior year of high school. Kick for 41 yards all season. He was chosen in the first team of the region and the state. I was also invited to play in the South Carolina All-Star Game.
2020: I sign to play in college and at the same time study. Due to COVID, that season is canceled.
2021: NCCU (University) first year playing for college. All year I averaged 39 yards.
2022: NCCU (University) second year playing. I averaged 41.3 yards per season. I was chosen as the best athletic, academic and social “Performance” in the entire eastern part of the United States. I became the first Peruvian in history to win a national football championship. I was chosen as a finalist for the “Doris Robinson Award” which is given to the best player with sports, academic and community service performance.
By the NFL
And his dream is clearly to make it to the NFL, but he knows the road isn’t that easy, least of all for his position. “We’re talking about 100 players in my position for 32 teams. But I feel like I’m on track, consistent in kicking and I’m very cold for tough moments.” It takes a lot of mental strength and being prepared for every eventuality because there are even games in which he barely makes one or two kicks, but others in which he has exceeded ten.
The decision to be a football player had more strategy than a taste for Juan. He even got to play his first season without wanting to know the rules. The Peruvian arrived in the United States determined to play soccer, but while in high school he found that football offered him the scholarships he needed to continue studying without the high costs that American education requires.
“In football, I saw my ticket to get to college for free. I was playing football and I said to myself, ‘I know how to kick,’ so I started playing in my junior year of high school,” he says. “I was 16 years old and I wasn’t the fastest, the tallest or the strongest. I told myself that if I’m going to do it, I have to do it well and maybe in another sport I wouldn’t have made it to a Division I.”
And then it was all decisions in search of opportunities. He became a kicker because of the natural condition of having a strong leg and because physically he was not ready to compete in other positions. “For another position you have to be born. The kicks I have had to learn in three years what others have been doing more than 10, “he says, but he has learned and well because he always had his clear goals and placed them ahead of talent. Their discipline made him become one of the best.
And without knowing the sport well, he delved into it. “The first year I was chosen for the team of the region and without knowing the rules. Within two years I reached Division I and I can say that I am the only Peruvian to win that tournament, “he says.
A Peruvian playing football, a story that only Juan was able to write. In a few months maybe we can see it on ESPN. Their mentality is aimed at that.