Nine months ago, Diego Martinez arrived in Warwick from Mexico just in time for what football players call “hell week,” the summer conditioning session of the football season. Surprisingly, Martinez already knew how to play American football and instead of going through hell that first week, Martinez made lifelong friendships. Now, Martinez says goodbye to Warwick, and the U.S.
On Saturday, Martinez flew back to his home city of Monterrey, in the state of Nuevo Leon, located in the northeast of Mexico. Martinez just finished his junior year of high school at Vets. He will finish his high school education at his former school, Universidad de Monterrey.
During his last days in the States, Martinez said goodbye and expressed his thanks to all of the friends he made in the last year.
“It was a good experience,” he said. “I got so close to some people in such a short time.”
He said he would miss his football buddies and his host/coach Brian Nappa the most.
“Real friends, you make them doing sports … I made a real good connection with Brian Nappa,” Martinez said.
While at Vets, Martinez played football, lacrosse and wrestled. He also made the honor roll. Even more impressive is the fact that Martinez had never wrestled or played lacrosse before.
“I’m a sports guy!” Martinez exclaimed when asked how he so quickly picked up the sports, and is excited to bring his experiences with those sports back home.
Martinez’s success, suggested Nappa, can be attributed to his hard work and dedication, staying after practice to learn skills other players already developed.
“He is very witty, and very intelligent,” said Nappa. “You got to love the kid.”
Dale Nicholson, regional manager of Northwest Student Exchange (the group that set Martinez up in Warwick) said Martinez was “awesome” with her family. Nicholson and her family first met Martinez as a “welcome family,” a family who first hosts and acquaints an exchange student into the country but is not the primary host.
Martinez eventually ended up with Nappa, who opened his home to him at the beginning of January. Nappa plans to visit Martinez and his family later this year, hoping they can stay close.
“He becomes like a son to you, you know,” Nappa confessed.
Martinez would like to return to the U.S. for college, hoping he can get an athletic scholarship. He would like to study “something in medicine.”
Nicholson, when asked if more exchange students could be coming to the area, responded, “Warwick will take all foreign exchange students if they haven’t graduated [high school].” She also said her company has about 11 or 12 other exchange students in the area besides Martinez.
In her 20th year with the organization, Nicholson said, “families are nervous sometimes” to take exchange students into their homes but recommends the experience. She is always looking for families interested in hosting.
Martinez says he will miss Warwick and experiences he has had here, especially his success on the athletics field. He feels fortunate he was able to experience “someplace relaxing, someplace different.”
Martinez “definitely” recommends the program and Warwick to future exchange students.
Whoever the new students will be, Martinez has left some tough shoes to fill.