Tigers’ Rubalcaba adds to family’s Gold Helmet legacy
The child spotted a flash of gold above the mantle. A trophy. It was always there at great grammy’s, a shiny helmet mounted on a wooden plaque. The helmet had two face-mask bars.
“Oh, cool,” the kid thought at the time. “I wonder what happened.”
As he grew older, Sean Rubalcaba began snapping the details together. It turned out his great uncle, Alvin Rubalcaba, was one of the best defensive backs and kick returners in the state. As a senior for Grand Junction High School in 1979, Alvin had 11 interceptions. It was the same year he won the trophy that would sit on Mary’s Rubalcaba’s mantle.
Sean always had an eye for that gold helmet.
“He was always looking at it,” Sean’s grandfather, Joe Rubalcaba said. “He wanted to know how Alvin got it and everything. I remember a couple of times him asking about the helmet and I’d tell him his uncle got it for playing football and being very good in academics.”
Several years after The Denver Post made Alvin its Gold Helmet Award Recipient for the state’s top senior football player, scholar and citizen, Sean — who was in fifth grade — set a goal to win his own.
All the while, great uncle Alvin went on to walk-on as a defensive back at the University of Colorado.
When Alvin eventually moved to Las Vegas — where he still resides — he would sit by a computer and listen to Grand Junction High School football games on live, streaming radio. His great nephew Sean, a quarterback, was passing and throwing and probably setting up the color commentator with a Crayola box of descriptions.
This season, Sean rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards and led Grand Junction to the Class 5A state quarterfinals and an 11-1 record.
“I think Sean has more talent than what I had,” Alvin said. “He plays a different position. He obviously has great leadership ability being a quarterback, and he led the team to a great record the last couple years. We each had our talents, quite honestly.”
Sean has maintained a 3.9 grade-point average throughout high school. He’s also been involved in community events such as Toys for Tots, Relay for Life and food drives at homeless shelters.
And now Sean can look at his own Gold Helmet. He is the sixth Grand Junction Tiger to receive the award. Joining him are: Doug Quimby (1970), Pete Cyphers (‘74), Rubalcaba (‘79), Bill Musgrave (‘85) and Doug Musgrave (‘88).
Grand Junction leads the state with the most Gold Helmet winners.
The Denver Post today made its official announcement in releasing its all-state teams.
“It’s awesome,” Rubalcaba said. “I was trying to keep it in the family. I was pretty young when I found out my uncle won it. It was something I set a goal toward, set my sights on. But I didn’t change who I was to try and win it.”
Immersed in a jungle of football pads, the slender 6-foot-3 quarterback might not seem a running threat. Then he’s slicing and shifting around linebackers and with stretching strides breaking off long touchdowns. He found receivers for short passes and delivered other balls with pad-popping force. Sometimes, he countered with deep balls, often to fellow senior wide receiver Chandon Rose.
It’s a “tricked-out” combination: Touch and strength with intelligence and speed. Sean gives statistics to teammates and toys and food to the less-fortunate and humble smiles to whomever might say, “Hey.”
That, more or less, is a Rubalcaba.
“We taught him hard work and told him if he wanted to good in sports it could lead to better things and keep him out of trouble,” said Joe, Sean’s grandfather and a tackle for Delta High School’s 1961 state championship team. “And we taught his some responsibility and sportsmanship.”
The 1979 Gold Helmet Award is now in Las Vegas, where Alvin is director of project management for National Security Technologies, a national security contractor for the government. It’s in Alvin’s trophy case.
“I think the design has probably changed over the years,” Alvin said. “At least the face mask doesn’t have one bar.”
Two bars is certainly better than one.
As is two gold helmet awards in one family.
Maybe someday there will be room on grammy’s mantle for both.
“I don’t know what I’ll do with it,” Sean said of his trophy. “My parents will probably hold onto it. Maybe we can unite them once, or a couple times.”