Bronx, NY - New York City has always been synonymous with elite basketball talent, especially at the high school level. Asphalt courts like “Rucker Park” and the “West 4th Street Courts” are globally known to all basketball fans. High school football in New York City on the other hand has historically not received the attention it deserves and recruiters outside of New York often fall into the trap of allowing what they have “heard” influence their decisions on whether or not they should spend time recruiting in NYC. There are talented players throughout the PSAL, CHSAA and Private Schools and one of those players is Cardinal Hayes Wide Receiver, Kuno Mendez (Class of 21’), who lead the state in receiving yards last season. The traits Mendez possesses fits perfectly with how the game of football is played today. When you watch him on tape the immediate observation is his short area quickness and change of direction, especially in space. He showed on film that he has the ability to gain separation at the top of his route and utilize his Long speed to stretch the field vertically against some of the best competition in NY. Mendez also displayed the ability to secure catches on balls that are thrown outside his frame which is important for any receiver. After the catch, he gets upfield in a hurry and utilizes his speed to generate big hunks of yardage. He is a space player that you need to get defenders around quickly to neutralize his options to pick up additional yardage.
During my conversation with Mendez, he described himself as an introvert when he first enrolled at Hayes as a 9th grader. He credits the coaching staff on his development as a person and football player.
“When I first got to Hayes I was quiet. The coaches at the start of my freshman year kept encouraging me,” said Mendez. “I knew they cared about me as a person and it felt like family. Our entire team feels like a family”.
Ask any high school football player what their ultimate goal is and you will most likely hear “I want to go D1”. Many players equate the collegiate level you play at as a “success” which is something coaches, parents and those coordinating recruiting services need to address. Choosing a school that has strong academics, a culture that allows a student to thrive socially and emotionally and that has a strong coaching staff with a reputation for developing players should be the primary criteria for choosing a school, not the division a player ends up at. With the advancements in identifying collegiate players with the requisite critical factors to play professionally, it is rare that a player goes unnoticed, even at the Division 3 level.
Mendez humbly spoke about the level of play not being a priority for him when choosing a school.
“I never thought of myself as a player that was going to go D1 but my coaches kept encouraging me,” said Mendez. “I would love to play at an FCS school like a Lafayette or Holy Cross but I would also be happy playing at a school like Ithaca.”
One of the most important factors in player evaluation that is often missing from the articles I read from various outlets that report on top high school prospects is who the player is as an individual. What are their interests? What subjects are they interested in? What career aspirations do they have? The answers to these questions are crucial for a college coach to address in conversations with players and their families to be able to show that their college is the best fit for a player’s long term goals.
As I continued to speak with Mendez, what stood out the most was his humility and maturity, especially speaking to someone like myself who is a complete stranger. Mendez expressed that Math is his favorite subject and that he would like to use his love of math as a bridge to a career.
“I really would like to go into the field of architecture, specifically with buildings,” said Mendez.
Mendez will look to maximize his Track and Field background at the 1st Annual Armory Football Combine on December 5 along with some of the best wide receivers in NY. The school that lands this young man is going to get not only an explosive football player, but a gifted student that will take full advantage of the academic major he chooses.