Staying true to his family’s football legacy at Roosevelt High School has drawn Chris Campos back to Boyle Heights, where he will face Garfield High School in Friday’s East Los Angeles Classic.
The 17-year-old senior, middle-linebacker owes his legacy to three generations of gridiron Rough Riders beginning in the ‘30s with his grandfather, Gilbert Aguilar, and continuing with his father, Art Campos who played from 1979-82.
Chris Campos began his high school career at Bishop Amat Memorial High School in La Puente, Calif. where he played for the Lancers.
“I had a lot of fun, I was a big star there and earned a lot of respect,” said Campos.
But when Art Campos was laid-off at work, it became too tough to pay for the high cost of tuition at the Catholic school.
As a sophomore, Chris Campos made the switch to Roosevelt. He says he was inspired by his grandfather who would talk to him as a child about playing against the school’s rivals, the Bulldogs, in the famed “classic.”
“I wanted to continue on the legacy… and play in the East L.A. classic,” said Chris Campos.
When the Campos’s met Roosevelt head football coach, Javier Cid, Chris already wanted to play at Roosevelt, but meeting Cid cemented that decision for both Chris and his father.
“[Coach Cid] is a big reason I like having him here. He watches my son and when he goes with him, I don’t have to worry about anything. He’s a great mentor,” said Art Campos.
Like the Campos,’ Cid is no stranger to Roosevelt. He played football there in the ‘80s, graduating in 1984 before becoming head football coach eight years ago, and then athletic director, positions he currently holds.
He is also well-aware of the Campos football legacy.
“The Campos name has been one of tradition, and they’ve all been known as solid football players who have done a lot for this school,” said Cid.
Cid has known many of the Campos players over the years personally, having either played with them, watched them before he came here, or coached them.
The Campos legacy extends beyond his immediate family. Gilbert Aguilar started the tradition, followed by Art Campos and his two older brothers, Octavio and Mario Campos, who also played for Roosevelt. Then there’s the line of cousins: Mario Campos Jr., Joseph Martinez III (currently on the varsity team), and Adam Martinez (currently on the junior varsity team)– not to mention a number of other relatives who have represented the red and gold.
“I would say the Campos legacy is probably the biggest here; biggest in number and biggest in contribution, and almost all of them wore the No. 30,” said Cid.
Cid compared Chris Campos with legendary Chicago Bears middle-linebacker, Dick Butkus, for his aggressive play and leadership on the field.
“He’s one of the leaders of the team. He leads by the way he plays. He’s very fiery and vocal and sometimes a little too fiery,” said Cid.
He also said that he has to pull in the reins on Campos from time-to-time because he gets a little too excited during games, but that he would rather have a player like that, than to have one he has to push to be more physical.
Chris said the discipline needed to excel in academics helps him on the football field where defensive schemes can be complicated.
“To play middle-linebacker, you have to be smart. I work hard in the classroom and that makes me a better football player. I’m able to read the pass, read the run. It’s a lot of thinking,” said Chris Campos.
His aggressive play has not gone unnoticed.
Chris Campos has received letters of interest from several schools including Missouri Valley College, the University of Minnesota, Crookston, California State University, San Diego and New Mexico State University.
The University of California, Los Angeles, invited Chris Campos on a tour of the Westwood campus recently, and he was contacted by the University of Washington, UCLA’s PAC 12 rival.
For Chris Campos though, it is the here and now. When he takes the field at East Los Angeles College’s Weingart Stadium against Garfield Friday, Nov. 1, it will be his third and last classic.
“I remember telling my dad I wanted to follow in his footsteps and play in the East L.A. Classic,” said Chris Campos. “That’s always been my dream.”
He hopes to avenge last year’s loss to the Bulldogs and chalk-up the Rough Riders 41st win in the series.
The game has added significance this year because it could determine the league champion. Garfield is undefeated in league play, while Roosevelt goes into the game with one conference loss.
Roosevelt holds a 40-34-6 edge over their eastside rivals in a game that allegedly draws the greatest number of spectators for a high school football game, west of the Mississippi.
The game has been played every year since 1925, with the exception of a span from 1939 to 1948.
Roosevelt and Garfield high schools will meet at the East L.A. Classic at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, Nov. 1 at Weingart Stadium in East Los Angeles College.