BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Life has a way of working in threes.
People can be a triple threat. Mottos come in threes. And we all know, 'third time's a charm'.
For Ryan Aguilar, soon-to-be Liberty high School graduate, three things define him: football, family and country
On a football field, Aguilar is in every game, but you probably don’t notice him. Even though game-defining moments begin with Aguilar as the long-snapper.
He's worked to perfect the craft of snapping. The finesse, the technique, the quickness, the precision, all perfected since he began snapping from a young age. His first football coach would tell you, who also happens to go by, Dad.
“We’ve always talked about team and that being first and that’s also what Coach Nixon and the staff at liberty has preached," Roman Aguilar said. "I think that’s always been his approach to football."
"It took a lot of practice, daily work, a ton of hours, lots of nights just sitting at home doing drills, there are lots of drills involved with it,” Ryan said.
The beginning of Aguilar discovering his selfless role on the football field.
“When he had things going on with friends and activities, you know, normal high school kids get to participate in, sometimes he didn’t get to do that, he’d have to sacrifice those times to go practice and go get ready for the next camp," Roman said.
Unselfish on and off the field, Ryan is about to make his greatest sacrifice. Following his senior season at Liberty, Ryan chose to commit to long snapping at the United States Military Academy.
Not an easy decision for him or his family.
“Honestly i was kind of in denial, like oh no, he’s not going there, he can’t go that far from home," Gabrielle Aguilar, Ryan's sister, said.
His mother agreed.
“I never imagined Ryan going to the military, I just never saw that for his future and it was hard, it is hard," Andrea Aguilar said.
“Any time there was an army commercial when we were watching football or something like that she’d start tearing up because it was an unknown thing at the time, but now that we’ve seen and talk to more people, everyone’s on board," Ryan described.
And he knows the many challenges that lie ahead.
“At first it was definitely intimidating and a phrase they have around there and just for the military in general is embrace the suck," Ryan said.
Likely the toughest part will be the 2800 mile distance between Bakersfield and West Point, New York. Bringing up emotions that are hard to contain.
“I've been the one working with him on a weekly basis to long snap. Those days, I’m going to miss that time with him in the car and out on the field," Roman shares while wiping away tears.
“So much joy in knowing that just what he has accomplished and what he will be a part of," Andrea said.
“I take pride in being his sister and I try to hold up to all of his achievements and just support him in whatever he’s doing and be his biggest fan," Gabrielle said.
As tough as leaving home behind for his next chapter, Ryan is ready for his new commitment as an army student-athlete and future soldier.
“13 years of my life planned out, but I think it’s something that in the long run, it gives me ten times the things any other colleges could give me," Ryan said.
West Point's motto is Duty. Honor. Country. A new series of three that Ryan will grow to represent but one of those words already making an impression on prospective cadet.
“I think honor means something that you’re respectful, respectable, truthful and that you’re doing something for someone that bigger than you.”
This Liberty Patriot is eager to graduate into his newest role: an American patriot.
“I think it’s one of the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.”