A football journey to America: Ian Gael Gonzalez Rioz

St. Stanislaus quarterback Ian Gael Gonzalez Rioz moved from his home in Mexico City to a dorm in Bay St. Louis where he had to adapt to a new language and life
Published: Nov. 13, 2023 at 12:24 AM CST
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Bay St. Louis, Miss. (WLOX) - Imagine moving away from everything you’ve ever known leaving your family, friends, and culture behind to pursue a dream.

St. Stanislaus quarterback Ian Gael Gonzalez Rioz moved from his home in Mexico City to a dorm in Bay St. Louis where he had to adapt to a new language and life in a different country.

“It’s been awesome,” Rioz said. “My first couple of days here, everything was kind of sad. I had to leave my entire life back, my family, my friends, my school, my language, my food, my culture, and coming here was a little bit sad. I don’t know, it was pretty hard for me, everything. But, I mean, I had a goal, and that’s the sacrifice that I needed to make to make my dream come true.”

“I’ve met incredible people here,” Rioz continued. “My coaches, my friends, everything. It’s just been awesome. The people here are so nice to me. I don’t know, I feel like I’m in my actual house in Mexico.”

In Mexico, football is the biggest sport, not the American type though. With such little opportunity to play the game, the only way to describe how Rioz and his older brother found the game is destiny.

“My brother used to do swimming and everything, but after that, he decided to practice another sport. He was trying to play soccer. We googled, I don’t know, football fields or football clubs or something, I don’t remember exactly, but we ended up on a football team. So, my brother tried it. When it was his season, I went to watch him play, and I said, I want to be just like my brother. That’s when I started doing it. I started loving it. I mean, it was the first sport that I ever practiced, and after that, I couldn’t quit.”

From the age of three, Ian has been in love with football. Having no close teams to him, he would have to travel hours on a daily basis to get to and from practice; a sacrifice his family had to make in order for Ian to chase his dream.

“I think my actual hero is my father. My father and my mom did everything for me. They put everything aside. They put everything on the table for me to get here. My siblings are awesome and everything, but my idol is like Troy Polamalu. When I was a little kid, I used to see him play and everything. It was just awesome. How he played is just incredible.”

Entering his junior year of high school, Rioz knew time was running out to live his dream of playing football in America. But after years of trying to find a school to play at, he finally got a chance.

“The last chance that we had was this past fall, we contacted this organization that is called Grid Iron Imports and they asked me, hey, do you want to come play football here? I said, oh yeah, definitely. They told me about the school. We looked at the school online and everything. I said, like, oh, my God, that’s so cool. And I told my parents, I’m going to play football, I’m going to be in the United States, and I’m going to be in front of the beach. That’s the dream.”

Moving to a new country midway through your junior year of high school is a transition impossible to understand unless you actually experience it. For Rioz, it all became real the day his parents left to go back to Mexico.

“It was hard. I remember that day. It was really cloudy seeing my parents leave me,” an emotional Rioz said. “I was always with them and saying bye to them. It was, I think, the roughest time of my life. It was still hard. I just remember that. I know that they’re “here” right now, but it’s just hard. All the effort they put in just to make my dream come true. I think it’s the bravest, or I don’t know how to say it, but the most thoughtful thing that a parent could do for their son. And I’m just thankful to God for having my parents and my family.”

Rioz currently has an offer to play football at Pearl River Community College as he looks to continue his dream.

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