Angelo Ferreira doesn't say a whole lot — he prefers to let his game do the talking.
The Gervais sixth-grader was among a select few representatives from the state of Oregon to make the 2,500-mile trip to Canton, Ohio, to play in the World Youth Championship located outside of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"It was nerve-wracking at first, but then I got used to it," Angelo said.
An offensive lineman, Angelo makes his living in the thick of the action, directing the line as starting center. He got the opportunity to showcase not just the state, but the city of Gervais, after earning a spot on Oregon's team. The week following Thanksgiving, youth football teams from across the country converged on the NFL Hall of Fame to play in the championship event.
It's a rare opportunity. Angelo was among only a few dozen student-athletes to be selected for the team. While football has been a passion of his for several years now, Angelo doesn't open up much about his accomplishments on the field.
"He's really humble," Angelo's dad Ricardo Ferreira said. "I have to bring it up. He won't bring it up to people."
After making the team, Angelo spent several months practicing with his Oregon teammates twice a week at Rex Putnam and McNary high schools, getting to know each other, learning plays, and getting ready for Canton.
"We had like three months" to practice, Angelo said. He began his football career in third grade after previously spending time as a goalkeeper in soccer. Ricardo is a longtime youth football coach in the area, a former player and a Raiders fan — making it an alluring sport for Angelo when he became old enough to play.
"At first, I just wanted to try it and see how it goes," Angelo said. "Once I did it, then I wanted to play it more."
Angelo started his career as a running back in flag football, but when he transitioned to full contact, he was above the weight limits for the position and made the move to the offensive line.
"They went to the line, and they had him try center," Ricardo said. "Ever since then, he's liked it."
Angelo was a natural at the position. Despite little tutelage in the position at home, he quickly learned how to shotgun-snap the ball — a difficult skill to master even at the high school level. Perfecting that skill made him a valuable asset on the line for coaches looking to air out the ball and give their quarterbacks a little extra time before the defenses converge.
"You have pressure on you," Angelo said. "If you have a bad snap, then it's on you because then you lose yardage."
"It's fun to watch him because he's not a social guy," his dad said. "He snaps the ball, goes back in the huddle, and you can see him asking how's my snaps. It's all business for him out there."
And while he began as a running back, he much prefers being in the trenches now. His favorite part of the game is the ability to be physical and hit people on the line, and at his size, he's darn good at it too, which is why he got selected for the Oregon team.
The trip to Canton was a whirlwind weekend. Angelo and his family arrived Thursday morning on Dec. 5, where he quickly registered and received orientation from Hall of Fame safety Rod Woodson among the hundreds of other student-athletes from around the country.
The first game was Friday morning, where the Oregon team was shut out 18-0 by New Jersey. While Angelo didn't get to start that game, he earned playing time and was able to get a starting spot on the next two games, where Oregon beat Connecticut 6-0 on Saturday, followed by a 15-0 victory over Boston on Sunday.
"I was excited," Angelo said about the opportunity to play for the state.
The Oregon team was able to let their players play in individual helmets representing the teams they came from, so Angelo was able to sport the blue and gold Michigan-style football helmets that Gervais wears.
"He's really quiet. He's really humble," Ricardo said. "But when he found out, about two days later he and my wife were driving, and he just went, 'Yeeaaaaah! I'm going to Ohio!'"
Once they found out Angelo had been accepted to the team, the family got into fundraising mode, spending long hours making and selling homemade tortillas and tamales, as well as generous donations from friends and family abroad.
"We just want to make sure we say thank you to the whole IBC coaching staff, the friends and family that got us there, and those that watched online," Ricardo said, recognizing those who had supported Angelo on his trip.
While in Ohio, Angelo and his family, including mom Sophia and older sister Elise, were able to tour the city, eat at regional restaurants, and check out the Hall of Fame.
During his trip, Angelo got to see the display for Hall of Fame lineman Anthony Muñoz, an 11-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle who played primarily for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Muñoz is Angelo's favorite player, "because there's not a lot of Mexican football players."
Like his father, Angelo is also a Raiders fan, in addition to supporting the Oregon State Beavers. Unbeknownst to Angelo, he was also following in his dad's footsteps when he moved to the offensive line. Ricardo played center when he was younger, but didn't want to influence his son, preferring to support from the sideline and separate his father/coach sides when watching Angelo play.
"I'm Dad — I'm not Coach. That's how he's always wanted it to be," Ricardo said. "If you want me to coach, let me know. It's hard to draw that line from dad and coach. I try to keep it just dad."
From here, Angelo intends to keep on playing and hopes to one day play collegiately. Next year he'll be playing against bigger athletes at the seventh and eighth-grade levels, but he relishes the opportunity, as any good lineman should.
"I look forward to it," Angelo said. "Because they hit harder, and then I get a chance to hit harder."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.