Former renegade football player Chavez pursues dream

Marcus Castro, Contributing Editor


A former Bakersfield College football player has been given what he says is his last chance at pursuing his dream.

“I’ve been struggling, man. I’ve been struggling a lot. I just look back and I’ve been through a lot of things, but I’ve always kept at it… This is my last shot at ever being in law enforcement,” said Erik Chavez, 25.

Chavez had a goal to work in law enforcement. He explained that this was a goal of his before he got married. Once married, Chavez worked a job that was unrelated to law enforcement in order to provide for his wife and baby girl.

Chavez ended up getting a divorce. When he left his house in Tehachapi, where his wife and child stayed, he had nearly nothing.

He explained that he felt as if his dream of working in law enforcement was over. Then he explained that an individual came up to him while at the gym and told him to go to WESTEC, a job training facility. Chavez decided to go, but he was low on money and thought there was no way that he could afford the costs.

Chavez, however, is now currently training at WESTEC toward a career in law enforcement.

“Where he came from, he could have very easily have gone the opposite way, but he didn’t,” said WESTEC program manager Chris Resendez. “That’s where WESTEC comes in. We’re there to help him and give him direction.”

Struggles are something that Chavez is used to dealing with. He explained that he grew up off of Martin Luther King Boulevard in a rough area of Bakersfield that has a high amount of crime and gang activity. Chavez moved to East Bakersfield at the age of 9 where there still was a high rate of crime and gang activity.

Chavez explained that as a young kid, he knew the difference between right and wrong.

“As a kid, I was really never involved in any type of gangs… I wasn’t necessarily raised a certain way because my parents weren’t there, but I always knew in the back of my mind that this is the right thing to do and this is the wrong thing to do,” said Chavez.

But he continued to explain that as he got a little older, he knew sooner or later it was going to be his time.

“A lot of gangs started looking at me like ‘Hey man, this guy is the biggest kid on the block. He can fight. It’s time we bring him in’,” said Chavez.

He said that there were fights he was in around his neighborhood where gang members would come and back him up. He said that through this he felt that they were supporting him.

Chavez explained that as he got a little bit older, he was more involved with the gangs in his neighborhood. He said that he wasn’t in the gang itself, but he was definitely associated and hung out with the gang members.

The members of the gang would take him out, buy him things, and try to get him involved in some of the things they were doing. He knew that his time to be in the gang was imminent at this point.

“Everybody on my block did it. Everybody on my old block did it. So I knew it was just a matter of time before it was my turn to get involved in those gangs,” said Chavez.

Chavez explained that when he was in his early teens he was approached by a kid his age, and the kid told him that a man wanted to talk to Chavez about playing football.

Chavez said at this time he has never played football and had never thought about playing it either, but he decided to go see what this man had to offer.

“I kind of saw it as a way out,” said Chavez.

Chavez met with the man, whose name is Joe Bergman, and they talked about football. Bergman convinced him to try it out. Chavez went on to become the captain of the team.

With the help of Bergman and his family, Chavez’s life turned around. He had potential to go to college to play football and get an education.

“They always supported me. School-wise, they helped me out with anything I needed. Sports-wise they helped me out with anything I needed,” said Chavez. “What Joe did and what his family did and what the people around him did was such a big impact in my life. I wouldn’t be in the situation I am now. I wouldn’t probably be alive.”

Chavez became a talented football player. He took his talents to BC where he played football on the 2007 and 2008 teams. He played defensive end and linebacker.

After BC, Chavez went to play at California University Lutheran, a Division 3 college. He then played at Tabor College on scholarship where things eventually didn’t work out. He came back to Bakersfield after that.

Chavez said, “I really don’t like to think about myself, but I’ll think about it and I’m like ‘Wow.’ I can’t believe through all that I actually still believe and still have hope in things and in life.”