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Mr. Raymond Ronquillo

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Email: rayronquillo@cox.net

Updated Oct. 1, 2016 Spotlight Feature

Spotlight on Former Athlete: Ray Ronquillo, Football 1987-90

Ronquillo relished chance to compete

By Bruce Brown

Athletic Network

Like father, like son … like grandson.

It seemed like Ray Ronquillo could excel in any sport he selected, starring in football, basketball and track and field at De La Salle High School in New Orleans before lettering in football from 1988-90 for USL’s Ragin’ Cajuns.

His father Ray was like that, competing in both football and track and field at then-SLI in 1959-61.

Son Ray played football and basketball for St. Thomas More, while second son Zack lettered in five sports for Ascension Episcopal School and is hoping to play college football.

Clearly, versatility runs in the family’s athletic gene pool.

You could film a remake of “The Natural” with any of them in the lead – including the elder Ray, who still plays racquetball in his 70’s.

“Everything came so easy for me,” said Ronquillo, who was part of the Brian Mitchell Era in Cajun football. “I didn’t lift weights until I went to college. When I was 7 years old, I was taller than everyone else (my age) and could run, jump and throw.

“I was 6-4 in the 8th grade at De La Salle, and graduated at 190 pounds.”

At DLS, competing in New Orleans’ rugged Catholic League, Ronquillo was a four-year letterman in three sports.

In football, he played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, linebacker, safety and punter, and earned a spot in the LHSCA All-Star Game. He caught 26 passes for 700 yards as a sophomore, fought injuries as a junior and had 24 receptions for 510 yards among other senior year MVP achievements.

Ronquillo was a vital member of Cavaliers basketball squads that went 34-5 his junior year and then reigned as 40-1 state champions in his final campaign.

As in football, he was team MVP in track and field, with the speed to run the 4×100 and 4×200 relays and set a school-record 14.9 in the110 hurdles, as well as clearing 6-10.25 in the high jump.

“I always ran track.” Ronquillo said. “We ran on the Mardi Gras track club all summer long. We were coached by Ronnie Doyle, who was a legendary coach at Rummel.

“My freshman and sophomore years, I handed the baton to (future LSU running back) Sammy Martin on the relays. He was unreal. My senior year, I cleared 6-10.25 in the high jump at the state meet. The bar was moved to 6-11, and that’s when (future UL All-American and Olympian) Hollis Conway took off his sweats and started to jump.”

Ronquillo’s greatest team moments came in basketball, as an underdog squad won state at LSU’s Maravich Assembly Center with grit and teamwork.

“We were so solid,” he said. “We played man-to-man defense and frustrated teams. We played Carroll. They were 28-0 and had been 28-0 the year before. They were averaging about 120 points a game, and when we played it went to triple overtime and we won 55-53.

“I intercepted the last pass to clinch the game. Everybody was in it for the team. We didn’t worry about statistics.”

Ronquillo accumulated statistics in many areas in football, thriving on competing as many minutes as possible, wherever needed.

“Football was my sport,” he said.

In the LHSCA All-Star game, he met standouts like Leroy Hoard, Leonard Valentine and a smalllish quarterback from Plaquemine named Brian Mitchell.

“Nobody was better than Brian,” Ronquillo said. “He was a leader. He talked a lot, but he backed it up and led by example. He lived and loved football.”

Ronquillo was surprised to be Mitchell’s teammate at USL. He was sure he was bound for LSU.

“Against Glen Oaks, I had one of those games,” he said. “Threw for 200, ran for 100, scored four touchdowns, punted. (LSU assistant) Pete Jenkins had been to the house twice. They already had Sammy Martin. I was just sure I was going to LSU.

“Then, the day before signing, they got Slip Watkins, who was real fast but couldn’t catch. (USL assistant) Barry Wilson was at De La Salle at 7 a.m. to sign me. I had never even visited.”

When the Cajuns opened 1986 against Oklahoma State, Ronquillo was one of only four freshmen suited up for action.

He had to adopt to a role as blocking receiver as passes went to Willie Culpepper and Quent McCollum, but made the most of his time.

“It was fun to be on that team,” he said. “We had players like Randy Guidry, Chris Gannon and Peter Batton – a lot who wanted to win. I still have a lot of friendships from those teams.”

Now it’s Zack’s turn. He lettered in football, basketball, track,weight lifting and golf at AES in 2015-16 and is currently a ruggedly-built, 195-pound big-play threat for the Blue Gators football program.

Talk about follow in footsteps gone before you.

“Basketball was his favorite sport,” Ronquillo said. “He didn’t want to play football. Then (current UL assistant) Mike Desormeaux came in Zack;s freshman year, and now he’s talking about playing in college.

“I worked with him a lot when he was younger. Leland Padgett taught him how to catch the ball. He works out so hard, really puts in the time and effort. He doesn’t want football to end.”

FAMILY TIES – Ronquillo’s godchild is Scott Plaisance, a 6-10 center who led Country Day to two state titles before joining Bob Marlin’s UL basketball program. Theresa Plaisance played for LSU and is in the WNBA.

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