Hugo Tellez still has the letter, and the Round Lake boys soccer coach shares it with his players.
It is documentation of a missed opportunity. A golden chance not kicked wide, but rather not kicked at all.
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During his senior year at Round Lake, Tellez, who graduated from high school in 1999, received a letter from Carthage College, which invited him to visit its campus in Kenosha, Wis., where a potential spot on the men's soccer roster awaited him.
Tellez passed, choosing to find work instead of attending college.
So Wednesday, as Round Lake senior soccer star Jordi Rubio, flanked by his parents, Norma and Efrain, signed a national letter of intent with Trinity Christian College, Tellez beamed. After all, Jose Dominguez, the men's soccer coach at the NAIA school in Palos Heights, had just notched a hat trick.
Round Lake keeper Ivan Gomez gave a verbal commitment to Dominguez on Wednesday, and defender Abraham Valadez recently signed with Trinity.
"I won the lottery here," said Dominguez, smiling.
Tellez couldn't have been prouder. He may have missed out on an opportunity to go to college fresh out of high school, but he is determined to make sure his players don't repeat his fate.
Tellez, who coached the Panthers to a sectional final in his first year as coach two years ago and last fall directed them to 17 wins, including one over Libertyville, is a teacher's aide at Round Lake. He works with special-needs kids.
"I got goose bumps," Tellez said, as Rubio was about to sign his letter of intent in the lobby of Round Lake's main entrance. "My main thing for coaching is right here -- having these kids move on to the next level."
With his college-bound trio of Rubio, Valadez and Gomez all on hand Wednesday, Tellez didn't need his Carthage letter to provide motivation.
"He's shown it to us," Rubio said. "It's pretty cool knowing that our coach is working to get us to go to college and to make it work."
Rubio is a dynamic talent, nicknamed "Cheetah" because of his speed. He will graduate as Round Lake's all-time leading scorer (85 goals, 47 assists).
"He's a smart player," Dominguez said. "He's aggressive as a forward. Forwards are good not only because they like the position, but they have (poise) in front of the goal. He knows how to control those nerves when it's a one-on-one situation. That's what makes him a strong player. And he works hard. He has a lot of potential."
Gomez has tried to stop enough Rubio shots in practice to know Trinity is getting a special player.
"Jordi is unpredictable," Gomez said. "You don't know what he's going to do. He's fast. He's strong. He doesn't give up."
Rubio, Gomez and Valadez are longtime buddies. Rubio met Valadez when they were 8. Rubio has known Gomez since middle school.
They will be good for each other on and off the field at Trinity.
"That's pretty cool because I guess when you're a freshman in college you probably feel alone," Rubio said.
Three players. Three spots filled for Trinity. Valadez may be short in physical stature, but the defender is not short on ability.
"When I saw Abraham back there (on defense), I would be like, 'We're fine,' because he's super fast," Rubio said. "The whole season I didn't see a player that beat him with speed."
Gomez rarely got beat in goal.
"We didn't have to worry about him not doing good," Rubio said. "We would feel safe because we had a solid defense and our goalie. We just had to worry about scoring."
Trinity opponents have to worry about stopping Trolls. That's the school nickname. The Toyota Prius hybrid that Dominguez drove to Round Lake on Wednesday even sported a "Go Trolls" decal.
"It's like a monster, I think," Rubio said.
He's sure to learn all about in college.