Villa lets his pride in West Chicago shine through
Contrary to published reports, you can go home again. In fact, except for three years playing soccer at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Jose Villa never left West Chicago.
Villa lives in a house three blocks away from his mother, Martha, and father, also Jose. He's a sixth-grade teacher at Leman Middle School and came to Leman after three years at Gary Elementary. Villa was a student at both.
He's in his eighth year as head boys soccer coach for the Wildcats, off to a nice start at 6-0-1 entering Wednesday's game at Streamwood. Villa also wore the navy blue and white as a three-year captain for Wildcats soccer, voted to the homecoming court his senior year.
"I love West Chicago. I say it with pride. I've lived here since I was 3," Villa said before refereeing a Monday night Wildcats alumni soccer game at the high school.
Married to his high school sweetheart, Leny Escobedo, with whom he has three children ranging from 4-year-old D'Alessandro to 5-week-old Ezra, four of Villa's five assistants are West Chicago graduates. The fifth lives in town with a child who attends Gary Elementary.
That's part of Villa's plan to maintain a successful program, which this summer saw 120 boys try out to fill five levels.
"Five of us having played here, and having been able to wear this jersey and play for this team and represent West Chicago as well is a huge part of that," Villa said. "I have full confidence that anything that they do they're trying to do for the benefit of the community, the program, the kids."
Through soccer, Villa attempts to teach his players leadership, responsibility, accountability and respect. He figures those traits last long after one's athletic career ends. And, as with Villa, another career begins.
"I think it's neat to be here, and I try to give back the way others have helped me and guided me," he said.