Billy Hylla turned away from the crowd, a sea of smiles and smart phones, and addressed the panel: Six seniors clutching pens, draped in emotion and school colors.
The Central Catholic athletic director shared a few thoughts on each student-athlete, and then wrapped up Friday's signing celebration with five words: We're going to miss you.
The Raiders honored six student-athletes who have earned the opportunity to play sports at the collegiate level during a lunchtime ceremony at the Mark Gallo Health and Fitness Center.
Those athletes were: football players Coleby Garrett and Emilio Guajardo, both of whom will play at Cal Lutheran University in the fall; offensive lineman Zuri Sizemore, who is headed to Willamette University in Oregon; basketball player Joshua Hamilton, a soon-to-be guard at Chico State; mid-distance specialist Anthony Vazquez, who will run cross country and track at Saint Mary's College; and catcher Miguel Olivo Jr., a Vanguard University recruit.
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"To me, this is the highlight of my job as athletic director, because you're seeing years of hard work, years of dedication in all aspects of their lives," Hylla said. "You have to do it academically and you have to do it athletically. The most important thing is the kids we put out here are all good people, and for me, that's huge."
They're all football players, too, which speaks to the multi-sport culture at Central Catholic, a school with less than 400 students.
Each student-athlete played at least two sports over the last four years, and no one spread his talent around more than Vazquez, who has dabbled in everything.
Vazquez arrived on the South Carpenter Road campus a soccer player, and then kicked and chased footballs at the lower levels for coach Roger Canepa. Eventually, he was coerced into running cross country and track as a junior. Since then, he hasn't looked back, trading his cleats for spikes and long miles.
Vazquez qualified for the CIF State Cross Country Meet as a junior and senior, and hopes to challenge for the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters title in the 800 meters later this spring.
"I never really expected to sign for this sport. I always thought I'd be a soccer player, but this sets the tone for my future," Vazquez said. "I've been training very hard these last three years -- this season especially -- and this makes everything worth it.
"Life isn't going to be easy. Being a three-sport athlete and training year round, it's hard ... but it's set me up for success. Being a three-sport athlete has made me into a better man."
One by one, the six honorees talked about fulfilling a lifelong dream, and the growth they experienced over the last four years in the school's "We" community.
Guajardo is the poster boy for patience and process, Hylla said. He is a player still growing into his 6-foot-3 frame, and always seemed to be blocked by another player.
Until this fall.
Before the season, Guajardo promised his coaches he would turn in a sterling senior season, and he delivered. A two-way player, Guajardo led the team in catches (20), receiving yards (302) and interceptions (five).
"A lot of people think it's easy. It's a lot of 6 a.m. workouts and after-practice work," Guajardo said. "It's more than football; there's a lot of work that goes into the classroom, too. This has always been the goal, to play at the next level and prove myself."
He'll have company.
Garrett will study medicine and middle linebacker at Cal Lutheran. Like Guajardo, he's dreamed of Friday's celebration for as long as he could hold a football.
All Olivo ever wanted to do was make his father, Miguel Sr., proud. The older Olivo played 13 seasons in the major leagues, and his son acknowledged the pressure that exists when your dad is a big-league backstop.
"A lot of tears have been shed," the younger Olivo said. "It was about making him proud, because at the end of the day, this was his sport. I've always heard 'Oh, this is Olivo's kid, this is Olivo's kid.' I felt the pressure, but if I knew if I trusted my skills, I would be fine."