The Brothers Murguia feature, from left to right, Joaquin (70), Ricardo (56), Benito (3), and Sal (40).
Between 1974 and 1993, five different Murguia brothers played varsity football for the Warriors --- which might be a school record.
The phone rang in the middle of the night. There was a silence for a moment and the next thing I heard was my mother crying. My father started talking to her in Spanish and they both started raising their voices. I couldn’t make out what they were saying; I just knew something was wrong. Finally I heard one word that I could understand, “Benito.”
My mind started racing as I was lying in my bed. What could have happened to Benito that had my mom so upset? She was hysterical! It sounded like chaos! My mother was crying, my father was yelling. “Benito” “Benito,” that’s all I kept hearing! What happened to my brother? Was he dead? I started to fear the worst!
Tears started running down my face as I came to the realization that he was gone. He was my childhood rival, my protector, my idol, now I’ll never speak to him again. Not now, please God no! This can’t be happening! Finally, my mom came into my bedroom! I sat up to see her panicked face and she told me, “Mi hijo, your dad and I are leaving.” Tears started gushing from her eyes and I responded tearfully, “What happened to Benito, is he dead?”
My Mom, grabbed my hand and said, “No, no, no, he’s in jail.” A relief came over me as my mom and dad left my room and the only thing I could say to myself was, “Oh thank God!”
The Brothers Murguia
When you’re the youngest brother in a large family sometimes it’s hard to establish an identity. People make assumptions about your personality and it gets frustrating when people presume that you’re just like your older siblings. I have four older brothers and we are all very similar in a lot of respects, but if you really got to know us individually, you’ll notice our distinct differences. When we were all growing up in the Tehachapi area however, there was one thing that we all had in common; it was a love for football!
My oldest brother Joaquin was the first member of our family to participate in Tehachapi High School sports in 1974. (I wasn’t even born yet). He was an offensive lineman/defensive end on the football team and the family was proud of his accomplishment since we were relatively new to the area. His 2 year “Warrior” career wasn’t exactly spectacular in terms of recognition but Joaquin was a solid player and he planted the seed for the rest of his brothers in the future. I remember when I was 5 years old looking at his old football picture and thinking, “That is so cool!”
As fate would have it my family moved away from Tehachapi for a year in 1979 and my other brothers first experience in youth football was in Detroit. I was only 4 years old, but I remember going to my first football game! It was my older brother Ricardo’s “Wolverines” against the hated “Redskins.” I don’t know who won, but from what I understood Ricardo was a terror on the football field!
By the time we moved back to the Tehachapi area in the fall of 1980, Ricardo wasn’t able to play youth football until the next year when he was in the 8th grade. Joaquin’s accomplishments were long forgotten and Ricardo had to establish his identity all on his own. He was an “Outsider” in the eyes of many students and he had his share of fights to prove that he belonged in Tehachapi. Ricardo is an intense person and where he channeled a lot of his intensity was on the football field. When he graduated the 8th grade he had the reputation for being one of the toughest kids in his class and he was the best linebacker in Tehachapi.
Ricardo’s success in football was legendary. After he broke his femur in two places in a game against Shafter during his freshman year in high school, he came back his sophomore year, led the team in tackles, won the defensive player of the year award and helped the “Braves” win the D.I.L. title. This after his doctor told him he’d never play football again and that one leg would be shorter than the other. By the time he was done in Tehachapi, he helped the Warriors win their second C.I.F. title in 1985, he was an All C.I.F. linebacker, and became an instant legend among the football community. Needless to say he set a high standard for the rest of his brothers who followed in his footsteps.
Mundo… Mundo was quiet. He was 3 years younger than Ricardo, but he was the person who had to walk in the enormous football shadow that was cast by his older brother. Since his days in youth football the coaches were always comparing Mundo to Ricardo. Mundo was an assassin! He was also a linebacker and he could hit harder than anyone that I had ever seen. Lavail Johnson, perhaps the most gifted football player in Tehachapi history told my brother Benito, “Of all the people that I have been hit by, your brother Mundo has hit me the hardest! He hit me so hard, I saw stars and it hurt!”
Mundo was arguably the best football player among us. Not only was he an awesome linebacker who could read plays, he possessed deceptive speed and was a pretty good fullback. What he did better than anybody else on the football field was anticipate a pass, step into the lane and pick it off for a touchdown. When he was a junior in High School, he made an immediate impact on the “Warriors” once he was named a starting linebacker midway through the season. Number 38 was all over the field, returning interceptions for touchdowns and becoming one of the leading tacklers on the team if not the leader. Mundo always flew under the radar, but he was an integral cog in the “Warriors” surprising run to the C.I.F. finals in 1987.
The team was set for another run for the title the next year but in the summer of 1988 Mundo surprised everyone when he decided not to play. This was unheard of in Tehachapi! Never before was there a player of his stature that decided not to play football and the coaches and the town were in shock! All of my friends asked me, “Why did he do it?” I never really knew, but Mundo’s answer to me was, “It wasn’t fun anymore.” You’d think that our football crazy family would resent him, call Mundo a quitter and beg him to play. But to the contrary all of us supported his decision and he became a lot more “cooler” in my eyes.
Mundo spent his senior year skating, going to the beach to body board, and fell in love with playing music. I can say this with confidence; Mundo Murguia was the first Football “Jock” in Tehachapi to embrace the “Alternative” culture. I remember some kids telling me that they thought my brother was “weird” because they saw him skating by himself at the Sierra National Bank parking lot. You have to understand, this was at a time when “jocks” and “skaters” didn’t necessarily get along.
On the first game of the 1988 season in Morro Bay two “Old-Timers” were sitting next to Mundo and I watching the varsity game. Number 38 which now belonged to Brad Manuel made a tackle and one of the men said, “That was a great tackle, we’re expecting a lot out of that Murguia kid this year.” Mundo and I looked at each other and started to laugh. This incident inspired me to give Brad Manuel his own “Hometown Sports” Nickname: Brad, “I’m So Glad Mundo’s Not Playing this Year” Manuel!
In the summer of 1988, brother Mundo Murguia, "surprised everyone when he decided not to play."
Benito….Benito was hands down the toughest, most competitive football player that I had ever seen! He was a year younger than Mundo, but he was undersized, so he always looked closer to my age. Benito had an edge to him. I think it’s because everyone thought that he was too small to do anything. Going back to when we were kids he was always getting picked on by older kids because of his size, so he’d try twice as hard to prove them wrong. Where Benito lacked in size he made up in speed, agility, tenacity, heart, and pure athleticism. Thanks to Ricardo, Mundo, and Ty Trimm, Benito became one of the fiercest people that I know.
In youth football Benito played tailback and outside linebacker. He was always the team leader and he consistently led the team in touchdowns and BIG HITS! Football coaches such as Ed Grimes, Robert Lewis, and Mr. Ricker himself LOVED Benito! He was a gifted athlete and a five touchdown game was not uncommon for him. The problem with him however was that he could never keep himself from getting hurt. Despite his size Benito played with the “Big Boys” and he would use his body like a human torpedo!
When he got to high school the coaches didn’t want to play him his freshman year because they thought he’d hurt himself. During his sophomore year as a “Brave” on the other hand, his talent wasn’t overlooked as he started at both flanker and cornerback. If you ask me, he had the talent to be a four year starter for the “Warriors” (Yeah I’m biased) but he was always considered “Too Small” by the coaching staff. By the time he was a senior however, Benito finally hit his growth spurt and was named a starting cornerback for the “Warriors.”
In his senior year, Benito was a handful. On the field he was a Jack Tatum like cornerback! He didn’t use his arms when he tackled and I witnessed many of his hits where his opponents were slow to get up. One hit was during a practice against one of his teammates and best friends. I was practicing with the “Braves” and all of the sudden I hear a huge, “CRACK!” and all of the “Warriors” gave that universal “ohhhh” sound whenever there was a big hit. My teammates and I all turned to look at the Varsity practice to see what happened. What I saw was tight end Jason Caudle collapsing to the ground like a prize fighter getting knocked out and my brother standing over him.
Benito was as tough as they came. During that senior year, he fractured his hand and missed only two games. I remember him lighting up “Nacho” Martinez from Wasco, intercepting the ball against Desert with one arm because his other one was in a cast, and almost knocking himself out when he sent a running back from Valley Christian flying into the sidelines! Benito embodied the “Hit n Fly” moniker so much in their 1989 run to the CIF Finals that he received the first, and to my knowledge the only, “Hit n’ Fly” award at the team banquet!
Benito was well liked by everyone. I’ve never seen a person who commanded everyone’s admiration and attention like he did. People just gravitated towards him. My best friends looked up to him and they still tell stories about Benito’s influence on them. He left a legacy in this town that was very hard to live up to and it was frustrating at times being compared to him. That’s why when my mom got that phone call in the middle of the night in 1993, I was so devastated. The one person who I was trying to live up to, the person that everyone talked about, made a decision that I couldn’t admire.
When word leaked about him being in jail, I had to answer a lot of questions to gossip hounds passing judgment. In a conservative small town, if a family member goes to jail, an entire family’s reputation is put into question. When I wanted some advice on how to explain Benito’s situation I turned to my brothers and they told me to be honest. Instead of abandoning Benito, my brothers became galvanized in supporting him during his lowest moment. (And on that note I will take this time to thank Coach Denman for demonstrating unconditional support to my family.) By the time I got to speak with him for the first time since that night, Benito reassured me that he was going to make it and not let this moment ruin his life.
Benito would be the first person to tell you that he was not proud of what he did. He made a mistake and used stupid judgment. But instead of hiding and feeling sorry for himself, or running from this incident, Benito didn’t make excuses and accepted the responsibility of his actions. It sounds crazy to say that I can admire somebody more after doing something so stupid, but my admiration for Benito grew after witnessing him turn his life around. His inner strength combined with the family support, allowed him to get out of a situation that can consume you for the rest of your life. His story is that of redemption and even as I write this, Benito isn’t afraid to talk about what happened because it reminds him of the journey to where he is at today.
As you can see I love my brothers, and boy did they leave an amazing legacy to Tehachapi and its Football History. When a Murguia was on the varsity team in Tehachapi the “Warriors” had 95 wins 26 losses 4 ties, 3 league titles, 2 C.I.F Championships, 6 C.I.F. finals appearances and 9 playoff appearances. I was more than honored to participate in that legacy and I took a little bit from each of my brothers to make sure I did the Murguia name proud. Furthermore my brothers not only affected my life, but the lives of so many other people in Tehachapi and this is my tribute to them.
I know this is about football, but here are some statistics about the Murguia brothers that I want to share with the readers and teammates that may have known them:
JOAQUIN: Finance Executive (married, father of two).
RICARDO: Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Chico State, M.S.W. San Francisco State.
MUNDO: Bachelor of Arts in Parks & Recreational Administration, San Francisco State, M.L.A. Cal Poly Pomona.
BENITO: Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies, UC Santa Cruz.
SAL: Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, UC Santa Barbara (married, almost father of one).
As you can see my brothers were more than just football players, they happen to be the most intelligent and articulate individuals that I know. I’ve learned so much from them and each of their stories are inspiring to me. When we all get together during the holidays, we’ll talk about everything from world politics to ancient religions. It’s a sure bet in the never ending dialogue of anecdotes and stories that the discussion will turn to football. And when we start talking football, we’ll begin to joke around about who was the best player among us. The argument will go on forever and it will never be settled, but I’m just happy that we can all participate in the conversation ...
You can e-mail former Warrior Sal Murguia at firstname.lastname@example.org