Based on Texas Tech coaches’ comments this season, Jonathan Guerra might be the eighth- or ninth-best offensive lineman on a team that’s mostly used seven. From time to time over the last two years, coaches have said he’s playable, but ... have never quite played him on a regular basis.
Others in the same situation might complain, but for Guerra it’s a source of pride. Most other Big 12 offensive linemen didn’t walk on when they were 50 pounds lighter and then pay their own way for five years to become viable.
“I was ecstatic just to be in the top-two rotation,” Guerra said, “because it was more than I ever expected. Whenever I first made the team, I thought the extent of me suiting out would be in the senior game.”
Guerra, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound lineman from Victoria Memorial, was among the 20 Tech seniors recognized in their final home game last week, but he got more out of the walk-on experience than most.
He played in two games last year and three this year. He was listed on the two-deep all season. He was an injury or two on the line away from possibly being thrown into key situations.
“He’s been good,” Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. “He was real good in the situation early in the year when (center Justin) Keown was out and he was in the mix to play some. He’s a smart guy, and you need a lot of guys on your team like that, that work hard, knowing they’re not going to get a lot out of it other than the fact that they’re just part of the team.”
Tuberville said few avenues are tougher than the one Guerra has chosen.
“The receivers and running backs and defensive backs, if you’re a walk-on and come out and go through all this, it’s a lot of fun,” Tuberville said. “But when you’re a lineman, it ain’t a lot of fun. You’re getting beat up on. You’re hitting somebody every play.”
Why do it then? Over the course of five years at Tech, Guerra decided he wants to be a college offensive line coach. So even when he’s not playing, all the time he’s spent in practices and meeting rooms could pay off in the future.
Before that, Guerra said he “wasn’t ready to be done (with football) after high school.” Never mind that he didn’t get a single offer — at any level, let alone Division I. He wasn’t even all-District 27-5A.
Asked his best achievement at Victoria Memorial, Guerra said with humor, “all-state academic.”
People who knew him then, Guerra said, never would have predicted he’d come close to playing football in the Big 12.
“All my friends are obviously shocked,” he said. “Everyone, honestly, is still proud of me, no matter what. I get a lot of support from back home.”
Deciding where to walk on was easy. Guerra had an older sister, Jennifer Guerra, attending Tech. When Jennifer graduated, Jonathan’s other sibling, Laurie Lacour, roomed with him while her husband, Army Capt. Chris Lacour, was deployed to Iraq.
“I was definitely happy to be there to be with her through everything,” Guerra said, “because otherwise she would have been stuck alone on an Army base in Kentucky. So I was glad she was able to move down with me.”
Guerra said his sister and brother-in-law now are in Germany; this past year was the first time for him to be living on his own.
From a football standpoint, the last couple of years also have been some of the most rewarding. Even if he didn’t play much, Guerra became a regular on the 70-man travel roster. A guard and tackle early in his career, he added center to his skill set, which inched him closer to potential playing time.
That was a far cry from his first few years when he used to serve as practice fodder for Tech defensive tackles such as Colby Whitlock and Richard Jones.
“I definitely overcame,” Guerra said. “It’s tough being a walk-on here. It’s a lot easier now, but it definitely used to be a lot tougher as far as hazing and other stuff. When I first got here, I was 250, and they’d throw me in at guard on scout team. I’d get run over and thrown out of the rotation on scout team. It was bad.”
Keown, the Red Raiders’ starting center, said Guerra has been a humorous personality for the offensive line. During games, he’s another set of eyes on the sideline, giving input to the linemen who are playing, Keown said.
Even though he reached the brink of being in the regular rotation, Guerra never did get placed on scholarship.
Keown said that makes his perseverance more admirable.
“We give him props,” Keown said, “because we go through the same thing he goes through. ... I know for myself, there’s not time to have a job. There’s very limited time you can do things. For a guy to pay for his own school, pay for everything he does and do the same things we do, you’ve got to take your hat off to somebody like that to stick it out.”
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