Borregos Stadium is capable of hosting over ten thousand fans. Eight towers of floodlights light up the gridiron where the Borregos of Monterrey, the football team to beat in Mexico, play their “Major League” games (Mexico's top college football level). On the night of November 22 last year, the stands were filled with students ready to watch the Borregos beat the UDLAP Aztecas and be crowned national champions.
Inaugurated in 2019, the stadium was built to attract top-tier athletes. Athletes such as Isaac Alarcón, the newest member of the Dallas Cowboys.
Since 2010, when the Premier Conference was born, the Aztecas had been crowned four times. The Monterrey Borregos had done it three times.
The Borregos were hosting the Aztecs after finishing the regular season with eight wins and only one loss. ¿The one defeat? They suffered it in the fourth week of the season against the Aztecs in a game that ended 17-10. UDLAP would lose the rematch six weeks later 28-22 to end the regular season.
They were now facing each other for the third time that year. This time, in the National Championship. At Borregos Stadium, the best of college football in Mexico was about to be seen.
And in the middle of it all? Wearing number 73, Isaac Alarcón. The best offensive lineman in the country.
This week, Offensive Lineman Isaac Alarcón was assigned to the Dallas Cowboys through the NFL's International Player Pathway program. In an attempt to find talent around the world, the league began this program in 2017. Since then, players from many countries have had the opportunity to seek a place in the NFL.
Some have even been part of a team's active rosters. In 2018, Nigeria-born British Efe Obada was the first participant in the program to be activated for a regular-season game. When he did, he got a sack and an interception, winning the NFC defensive player that week.
Obada remains a member of the Carolina Panthers, playing in all 16 games of the 2019 season and accumulating 24 tackles.
Germany's Jakob Johnson is another example of success on the International Player Pathway. After Patriots Fullback James Develin suffered an injury in 2019, Jakob was promoted to the active roster. He played in four games in New England, three as a starter.
For the 2020 season, nine players attended practices in Florida in front of NFL scouts hoping to be assigned to a team. This year, the NFC East was randomly chosen as the division that would host four players from this initiative.
For the Dallas Cowboys, the international player will be Isaac Alarcón. The former Borrego may remain with the team until training camp ends. When that time comes, the team will have several options to keep him:
- Keep Alarcón in the active roster, which would be a dream come true for the 21-year-old, 6'6″ offensive lineman.
- Keep him in the practice squad using the International Player exemption. He would not count against the practice squad player limit, essentially giving the team an “extra spot” but the team wouldn't be able to promote him to the active roster in the 2020 season.
- Keep him in the practice squad without the International Player exemption. He'd count against the player limit but would be eligible to play in 2020.
Alarcón, months after winning his second national championship in Mexico, will be training with the Dallas Cowboys and will not lack support.
“Maybe Mexico can play at the highest level of football, too.” Isaac Alarcón on NFL Mexico
When the news that Isaac Alarcon would join the Dallas Cowboys was published, millions of Mexicans were happy. “One of us” would play with the best at the highest level football has to offer.
In Mexico, it is estimated that there are more than 20 million NFL fans. Behind only the United States, it is the country with the most supporters of this exciting league. Since the team was established in 1960, the Cowboys have captured a large portion of the Mexican public through their presence on national television.
To this date, no game in the history of the NFL has drawn as many fans as a preseason duel between the Houston Oilers and the Dallas Cowboys in 1994 at Azteca Stadium, when 112,736 people occupied the seats – yes, a preseason game.
Two professional football leagues have recently started in Mexico, and both are in expansion mode. One of the pioneering teams, the Chihuahua Caudillos, hosted an unprecedented 18,000 people in their stadium for their kickoff game just a couple of months ago.
Little by little, faith in Mexican football talent is growing. A year before Isaac Alarcón's participation, Máximo González, former Defensive End for the Monterrey Borregos, was the first Mexican player to participate in the International Player Pathway program.
“As Isaac says, the level of American football in the United States is not too far away from what we have in Mexico. Isaac is the clear example of that and that dreams come true,” Máximo told Inside The Star.
Throughout history, several Mexicans have played in the NFL. Raul Allegre was born in Torreón and had a nine-year career as a kicker, where he won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants. Rafael Séptien, born in Mexico City, played 10 years in the NFL also as a kicker.
Offensive Guard Rolando Cantú stands out for playing in the NFL without having played in a US college and being the first Mexican to play in the league at a position other than kicker.
With a college football system on the rise after the merger of the two best conferences in the country a few months ago, Mexican talent could be closer and closer to the next Mexican player in the NFL.
Now, it's Alarcón's chance.
“I want to be an example for my country. I want to bring hope to Mexicans… I want to knock that door so hard that it opens, and that it doesn't just open to me, but opens for all those Mexican players.” Isaac Alarcón on NFL Mexico
For his teammates, Isaac Alarcón's level of play was always notorious. Asked if the news had surprised the team, Monterrey Borregos Defensive End Marco Antillón replied, “We believed it because we know how talented (Isaac) is.”
His talent wasn't the only thing they noticed, though. His work ethic was also remarkable. “Every day he trained extra time, stayed extra time,” commented Antillón to Inside The Star. “As a defensive lineman, when it was our turn to train against him, I had a hard time every training session. I liked it, but it was a drag.”
Despite his talent and achievements, Marco says Alarcón has always been humble. “He'd be tearing you apart, but he was humble.”
Since he started playing the sport at age 13, Isaac has shone. At only 17 years of age, he began his Major League career with the Monterrey Borregos. He won his first championship as a rookie in 2015.
In 2016, he traveled to China as the national team in the U-19 World Championship, where he won bronze along with an outstanding group of Mexican players.
Two years later, once again in China, Alarcón played with the Mexican team that won the World University Championship. This time, he and his team were crowned champions after beating the United States 20-17 in the final.
“(Isaac) is a unique person. Not just because of what he just accomplished,” said Máximo González of his former teammate. “But because of the quality of a person that he is. I have known him for two years and he is an excellent human being in all areas of his life. He's a great friend, great student, great brother and son.”
Getting to the NFL is just one of Isaac Alarcón's goals. His career has been full of important events that have led to a new one.
On that night of November 22, 2019, at Borregos Stadium, the Borregos crushed the Aztecas in the Premier Conference National Championship 27-13, after amassing a 24-0 lead in the second quarter.
Alarcón celebrated the title with his team, while fans came down to the lit-up field covered in confetti. He celebrated, probably unaware that in a few months he would be wearing the Dallas Cowboys uniform.
To read this article in Spanish, click here.