A Mission On and Off the Field

Top Junior College will be adding a local football star to their roster

More stories from Katie Gerber


© 2019 Gerber

Dorias Field in Chippewa Falls was the starting point of Senior Rico DeLeon’s standout football career that led to Division 1 scholarship offers.

Many words have been used to describe him. D1 recruit, a good kid, record breaking and the best defensive player in school history. One word doesn’t come up to describe Chippewa Falls senior Rico DeLeon. Conventional.
The first team all-state defensive end for the CHI-HI Cardinals has announced his decision to play football with the Iowa Western Reivers after receiving offers from many Division One schools like the University of Wisconsin. However, DeLeon said the fact that the Reivers were the Region XI champions six years running was not the only reason he committed to the program.
“There’s a lot of colleges out there, like Ohio State has ‘Real Life Wednesdays’ where they show you the reality of life, you know what you can do to help people” DeLeon said. “Iowa Western is involved in their community a lot, so that was a big choice … and they’re re really good at football so it was like a double plus.”
DeLeon has been active in his community for the past four years ever since a friend asked him for help at the local church. Since then, DeLeon has looked for ways to help his community and when a previous principal told him about an organization in CHI-HI he was ready to help. He and another football teammate worked at promoting Cardinal Landing and raised more than $1,300 dollars in one week.
“It was a program in the school for kids who can’t afford clothing or any of the necessities for school” DeLeon said. “It’s a fund they can go to privately, anonymously, like and get money if they need it for clothes or any of that … school projects. Cause there’s a lot of kids out there nobody knows struggles every day, we just thought we need to bring attention to it.”
According to his teammates, coaches and peers he is anything if not committed, so his work doesn’t stop at student, athlete and community volunteer. He takes it one step further adding ‘manager’ to his list of titles.
DeLeon managed the CHI-HI girls basketball team saying the different experience took him outside his comfort zone pushing him to observe another game from another angle. DeLeon said the experience helped him determine how he could better his football career.
“Like you wouldn’t think a guy on a bus full of women would be a good thing, but I’ve learned a lot more from them than I have from some of my teammates” DeLeon said. “The hard work, the tears and the grind. Everything.”
The hard work and the grind helped him get to a top junior college in the nation. It helped better his game and his community. DeLeon said the lessons he learned on the field and in his work with the community are ones he is taking with him to his next steps.
“I like being who I am,” DeLeon said. People may look at me weird but I don’t know I just find it special.”