Dom Espinosa commits to University of Texas

Zach DiSchiano

      Dominic Espinosa, senior offensive linemen, is just a few months away from starting football practice with one of the greatest football programs of all time. The 6’4” center and University of Texas commit was invited to play in front of 35,000 fans at the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl. At the game he faced other superstar high school athletes and even stole the spotlight as he recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown as the game time expired. After being recruited by Tennessee, Missouri, Stanford, UCLA and several other Division 1 schools, Espinosa signed with the Longhorns February 3.

     This year Dom was rated a four star athlete by the recruiting web site, Rivals. His outstanding play at CPHS earned him a spot on the Army Bowl roster, where he joined the other elite prospects in an All-Star Game of East vs. West. 

     “It was definitely a different sort of game,” Espinosa said. “The quality of the talent of the other players was noticeable; I had to take the time to adapt to the playing style.”

     Although there were a lot less fans, Espinosa said that he was actually more nervous about the playoff game against Cypress Ridge than the Army Bowl.

     “There wasn’t really anything on the line for the Bowl,” Espinosa said. “It was good to win the Bowl but not as good as it would have been to win the playoff game.”

     Espinosa played center for the Timberwolves and for the West All Stars, but he is still uncertain which position he will play at Texas. He is expected to be an inside lineman, (a guard or center) but if he grows a few more inches it wouldn’t be surprising to see head coach Mack Brown move Espinosa to the tackle position. While it’s still undecided on when he will play and whether or not he will redshirt, Espinosa hopes to start by his sophomore year. As the summer practices approach, Espinosa is still meeting his future teammates.

      “I’m friends with most of the other commits,” Espinosa said. “I’m closer to some than others but I’m familiar with the other prospects.”

      At the Army Bowl Espinosa roomed with Conner Wood, a 6’4” quarterback from Houston, Texas who was recruited by powerhouses like Notre Dame and Alabama and will likely see playing time after Garret Gilbert. Espinosa is unsure, but the two may room together.

     As for academics, Espinosa said that he wanted to stay in the department of sports for his career. He’s interested in majoring in sports management at the University of Texas, but as long as he’s working with sports, he’s content.

     Even with his desire to work in sports, Espinosa may not need to think about a career after football at all, if everything goes as planned. His goal is to play in the National Football League after his college career at UT. This dream may not be too far out reach because it’s common to see “skill position” players (quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers) enter the NFL draft before graduating. This tends to occur because they are easily recognizable by NFL scouts. However, if a lineman or defensive back displays outstanding skills, it’s definitely possible for them to be noticed by NFL coaches before senior year. This would allow them to skip the unnecessary classes and lectures in order to go for the big bucks in pro football. However,  Espinosa feels that earning his degree would be best for him.

     “Unless I’m a really high projected draft pick, I’m going to stay all four years,” Espinosa said. “Getting a degree is really important to me.”

     The NFL is a long way from now though, as Espinosa is still only a senior in high school. He’s used to playing in front of just a few thousand fans. If he plays center for the Longhorns, he will have trouble hearing the quarterback’s cadence with over 100,000 fans screaming and cheering.

     “I’ve played in big high school games and at the Army Bowl but never in front of that many fans,” Espinosa said. “So the crowd volume is going to make it very difficult to hear the snap count.”

     The adjustment will be difficult for Espinosa just like it was for every other freshman at UT, but with time comes maturation.

     While Espinosa has proven his skills as a player there were times he doubted himself. The pressures of recruiting and trying to impress scouts can cause young high school athletes to question themselves.

     “I would ask myself, ‘Am I really this good?’ and ‘Can I play with these guys?’ Espinosa said. “But I’m playing with guys like Holmes Onwukaife, so going up against him makes me feel like I’m not that good, but when I play other people it’s actually a lot easier.”

      In practice Espinosa would repeatedly try and stop Onwukaife from getting to the ball carrier or quarterback.  He was able to gain precious experience by challenging another Division I athlete. Instead of dominating an average high school defensive lineman or linebacker, Espinosa had to face a 6’3”, 240 pound monster with blazing speed and a 33 inch vertical. Naturally, Espinosa is going to improve every day when practicing against an athlete of Onwukaife’s caliber.

     Coaches play a huge role in guiding athletes to be on the right path. Head coach Chris Ross and the rest of the coaching staff have done an excellent job in not only helping athletes like Espinosa and Onwukaife excel on the field, but also in the classroom and as men. Cedar Park had 11 athletes on the Academic All-State Team, which ranks in the top 5 schools in the state.

     “The coaches make me stay on track and get focused, and avoid getting big-headed,” Espinosa said. “There are a lot of temptations from other players and they can get to you, but they just want me to keep my head on straight and finish the year strong.”

     As Espinosa’s high school career ends, his college career at the University of Texas begins. Espinosa credits his hard work and persistence with getting him to where he is now, and if he takes the advice of his coaches, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the lineman playing on Sundays four years from now.