You can probably count on one hand the number of high school athletes transitioning from the nose tackle position in football to basically anywhere on the soccer pitch as the winter sports season begins.
Start the tally with Aloisio Figueira – ‘Alo’ to his friends – a senior at San Marino High School who spends the fall eluding three hundred pound offensive linemen and the winter following every move of long, lithe attackers.
But Alo isn’t your everyday athlete – not by a longshot. At 5’5” tall and 190 lbs., he fits the typical profile of neither the defensive lineman or, in soccer, a defender. But sprinkle in his exceptional speed – Alo has been clocked at an exceptional 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash – and it all adds up to a royal pain for his opponents.
“In football, I play a lot lower than the guy across the line and that has been their pet peeve,” said Figueora. “I get right onto their hip and that bothers everyone. Being shorter and faster has helped me a great deal. They hate playing against someone my size.”
Opponents on the soccer pitch face the same challenge.
“Most of the guys I mark are tall, lanky and skinny,” Figueira said. “It actually works in my advantage because when the game starts, I can tell they don’t think I am very quick. Next thing, they are like ‘Oh, no!’”
What Alo lacks in physical height, he more than makes up with in the attributes that can’t me measured by a tape, scale or stopwatch.
“Alo has a really good attitude,” said Mike Hobbie, San Marino High School’s head varsity football coach. “He is a ‘yes sir, no sir’ kind of guy, which I really appreciate, and he is also very coachable. The fact that he plays soccer just shows you how athletic he is. And I do not have a problem with undersized defensive linemen. They are very hard to block.”
Figueira played both offense and defense last year as a junior, but was used exclusively this season as a nose tackle, the defensive player whom lines up directly across from the center.
“Alo was the hub of our defense,” Hobbie continued. “He made a tremendous amount of progress. He is very mature and understands that coaching is coaching and is not personal. That is not easy for a lot of young people to understand, but he was able to grasp that. Alo was also a very good kicker for us this year.”
Figueroa credits his kicking skills to the fact that he has been playing soccer since the age of three. He converted 56 extra points and nailed the only field goal he was asked to attempt – a 356-yarder as the clock expired on the first half against Monrovia.
He also averaged 40.7 yards per punt, with a long of 65.
Defensively, Alo was seventh in tackles and second in sacks, a credit to his perseverance.
And while soccer occupied most of his younger days, the switch flipped when he began playing football.
“It has been amazing,” said Figueira. “It is the best thing I could have ever done in my four years of high school. The hard work, the effort and the discipline are huge factors as to why I love this game so much. I especially like Coach Hobbie. He is old school and I love that. There are not many coaches like him and that changes the game, too. I love the way he coaches and I thank him for all the discipline in his program.”
Head soccer Coach Ozzie Monroy has enjoyed his association with Alo.
“He brings a great deal of enthusiasm to the group,” said Monroy, who has coached Figueira for the duration of his four-year varsity soccer career. “He is the guy who keeps thinks light and always has a joke and a smile. But at the same time, he is very intense and we know we are always going to get 100% from Alo. He supports his teammates and is always there to help and keep things positive. He really enjoys the game and it is a pleasure to coach Alo.”
Alo is the son of Leila and Richard Figueira, both of whom are Italian, but born in Brazil. That pedigree goes a long way towards explaining hi passion for soccer.
“Brazil,” he said when asked to name his favorite international soccer side. Ronaldinho is his favorite soccer player and Penelope, 4, his favorite sister.