Homeless to being hopeless

Mohamed Bafakih, Sports Editor

“Salsa Nacho” as Waco knows him, or better known as Silas Nacita here in Bako, has been heard on the national stage over the past few months.

Former standout football player and wrestler at Bakersfield High School, Nacita was an all-around class act.

Nacita maintained a 4.1 GPA in the classroom as a senior in 2012 and led the Drillers to a Valley title during that time.

Luckily I was fortunate enough to interview him multiple times for Bakersfield High’s Blue&White, during our years at BHS.

One thing I didn’t know, along with many others who kept up with him, was what now everybody knows: Silas Nacita’s trials dealing with homelessness.

I looked at him as a first class student-athlete whose family is as proud of him as any parent can be – a student first, an athlete second but excelling at both to the highest level.

As SI.com’s Ken Rodriguez first reported on Dec. 30, 2014 – days before Nacita and the Baylor Bears took on Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl inside football’s most prime stadium (AT&T Stadium) – in Sports Illustrated’s ‘Inspirations’ piece, when Nacita really took flight in the sports world.

Sports Illustrated months earlier revealed that there are nearly 100,000 homeless athletes around the country, but this one person who we thought had it all was part of this number.

“Everyone saw me as a kid who had his life together with sports and academics… but nobody knew what was happening inside or at home. I lived in the shadows.” Nacita told SI.

I watched him sign his letter of intent to play at Ivy League’s Cornell University on a scholarship. I even believed that his talent was far superior than the Ivy League level, so seeing him transfer to Big 12 powerhouse and a nationally accredited Christian university in Baylor was an absolute perfect fit.

But it wasn’t one of those easy transfers. Nacita grew distant from his family, especially with his mother during his time at Cornell, but the distance of being 2,700 miles away played a factor.

Prior to getting into Baylor, he waited tables 40 hours a week and completed courses online at Waco’s McLennan Community College while moving around from one friend to another’s apartment just to have a roof over his head.

Finally at Baylor, Nacita walked-on and made the football team as a backup running back. He became an instant sensation as “Salsa Nacho” despite his limited role around Waco.

A kid with big dreams to play football from Bakersfield finally made it.

However, his homelessness became the reason why the NCAA declared him ineligible and why we won’t be seeing him in a Bears uniform as a senior.

Although Nacita admits he broke the NCAA rules by living with friends and receiving typical housing benefits, how could you allow anyone, athlete or not, to be living desperately and wondering where you’ll be keeping a roof over your head night-to-night?

The NCAA clearly needs some justification to allow a player who is dealing with homelessness to receive the proper assistance needed.

Nacita would tweet the following regarding his future after being ruled ineligible: “I am taking it one step at a time, but I look forward to continuing my studies this semester as a student at Baylor.”

Nacita has been an inspiration to all and will always have a home in Bakersfield and our hearts.