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January 13, 2014

‘It was a blessing to be able to come back’

Warren Cousino grad, Sierra, selected as college football All-America after breaking leg previous year

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

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Pictured is former Defiance College football player and Warren Cousino graduate Tony Sierra, who earned a spot on the Division III All-America team his senior season at Defiance.

WARREN — After breaking his leg before what was supposed to be his senior football season at Defiance College in Ohio, the easy thing for Warren Cousino graduate Tony Sierra to do was to simply call it quits.

While he did give some thought to the possibility that his football career may be over, he decided to remain with the program and take a redshirt.

It is a decision he is glad he made, as Sierra came back to complete his senior season and ended his career by being named a Division III All-America by the American Football Coaches Association.

The opportunity he received to come back for his senior season is not one Sierra has taken for granted.

“The doctor told me, when I walked in, ‘I don’t know how you’re walking on it right now, but your leg’s broken,’” he said. “An athlete’s mind, you go straight to thinking you’re done — tears come. I went back to school, got my redshirt. It was a blessing to be able to come back. I’ve been blessed along the way — I can thank God for that.

“I enjoyed playing football. It was a great experience. I was blessed to have parents who could help me along the way — helping pay for college along the way.”

Sierra offered some thoughts regarding the keys to his football accomplishments.

“Keep your chin up, keep fighting and work hard,” said Sierra, who led all Division III players with 26 passes defended to go along with five interceptions, 39 tackles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. “You can tell everybody you work hard, but you have to look at yourself to know — are you really working hard?”

A strong support system can go a long way toward helping athletes achieve at a high level, and Sierra indicated he has gotten that from his family, friends and coaches, such as Nate Jensen, former defensive coordinator at Defiance; Jon McCord, cornerbacks coach at Defiance; Jeff Judge, current defensive coordinator at Defiance; and members of the coaching staff at Cousino, including head coach Mike Powell.

While football is a sport, the life lessons that can come as a result of playing make it seem like much more than a game. Sierra reflected on how football has benefited him beyond just the playing field.

“Leadership — great life lesson learned from football,” he said. “Also, relating to other people. Not everybody’s the same — playing with multiple cultures and different types of people help you. That kind of helps you not only interact with them, but interact with yourself. You get a taste of what their culture is. I think I take that a lot from football. And family — it’s based on loyalty and trust. Those are great life lessons.”

Sierra graduated from Defiance last December with a degree in business administration. With life as a student-athlete now in his past, his experience as a football player may have helped to shape his attitude regarding possibilities for his life.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “I’m ready to take life on. Staying in shape, keeping myself conditioned and ready for anything. I’m trying to stay positive and keep working hard. I think hard work can get you anywhere in life.”