Xavier Catano isn’t left speechless often but when NFL legend Ronnie Lott asked him an impromptu question during the banquet three days before the Charlie Wedemeyer All-Star Football Game, the Live Oak High senior was at a loss for words.
“I ain’t gonna lie, he did catch me off guard and I didn’t know what to say at the time,” said Catano, who scored the only touchdown of the game as the South team beat the North, 9-0, on Feb. 4 at Los Gatos High. “Ronnie Lott was giving a speech to all the players and he made us all stand up and asked what made us great.”
Former NFL player and Los Gatos High standout Kiko Alonso was also at the banquet and gave an “inspirational” speech to the players. Catano was joined on the South team by Live Oak teammates Jordan Fuentes and Zack Enderle, along with Sobrato’s Ryan McGlashan.
Fuentes, a running back and linebacker, earned Blossom Valley Athletic League Mount Hamilton Division Co-MVP honors this past season, and Enderle, a guard, was named Most Outstanding Lineman. McGlashan, a left tackle and defensive tackle, made the BVAL Santa Teresa Valley Division first team.
Catano was slowed down last season by injury, but his ability to reach the end zone was still uncanny at times. Playing receiver most of the season, Catano didn’t rack up the receptions, but when he did catch a ball, he often found the end zone.
So it’s no surprise then Catano accounted for the game’s lone TD, a 3-yard run around left end with 11 minutes, 55 seconds left in the second quarter. Due to the inclement weather conditions, neither team could move the ball with any semblance of consistency.
That meant a lot of carries for the running backs like Fuentes.
The fact that Catano and Fuentes got to play together one final time was fitting. They grew up playing together on the Oak Grove and Morgan Hill Pop Warner teams, and their moms are best friends, Catano said.
“Jordan, that is my brother,” Catano said. “We had to soak it all in and give it our all.”
Catano has played quarterback, tailback, receiver and safety during his high school career, but in a further display of his versatility, he was the South team’s long snapper in the Wedemeyer Game. Catano hadn’t long snapped since his Pop Warner days.
“I’m not trying to brag or anything, but my snaps were perfect,” he said. “It was nerve-wracking because I didn’t want to mess up and the ball was wet. But the coaches didn’t have any long snappers so I volunteered.”
McGlashan echoed similar sentiments of fun and amazement in regards to being a part of the Wedemeyer event. The game draws most of the top players from schools in the BVAL and Santa Clara Valley Athletic League, along with notable private schools Bellarmine, Mitty, St. Francis, Valley Christian, Harker and the King’s Academy.
All of the proceeds from the game go to Coaches Against Cancer and the ALS Golden West Foundation. The contest is named after the former Los Gatos High coach who was diagnosed with ALS in 1977 and was given just three years to live. Defying the odds, he ended up living for 33 years until his death in 2010.
Along the way, Wedemeyer became an inspiration to millions of people as they learned his life story.
“The whole experience [Wedemeyer events] was really fun,” said McGlashan, who had over a dozen family and friends in attendance at the game. “Getting to play around players that are near my skill and even above my skill level was great.”
When McGlashan received a call from South coach Tim Pierleoni in December that he had been selected for the game, he was downright ecstatic.
“That was really something special because I thought I was all done with football and was getting ready for track and field,” he said. “I was just going crazy sharing the news with my parents.”
McGlashan said all of the players were stunned to see Lott at the banquet. Even though all 87 of the Wedemeyer players were born long after Lott retired in 1995, they’ve seen his highlights and read enough articles to know what the former San Francisco 49ers safety did in a Hall of Fame career.
“We had no idea he was going to be there and even looking at his pinky, you’re thinking, ‘Man, this is Ronnie Lott in front of us,’” McGlashan said, acknowledging the famous story in which Lott had the tip of his left pinky finger amputated rather than get surgery so he could start the 1986 season.
McGlashan said playing in last season’s El Toro Bowl—the rivalry game with Live Oak was resurrected after a five-year absence—was a top highlight in his career along with the team’s final game against Leigh in his junior season.
“We unfortunately lost, but there was something special playing with those seniors, guys who basically raised me for football,” he said. “I have a lot of love for those guys so it was a really emotional moment knowing it was our final time playing together.” McGlashan now looks forward to the track and field season, where he’s coming off a 2022 campaign that saw him break the school record in the shot put throw—which was previously held by Sobrato football coach Joel Rueda interestingly enough—and advance to the CCS Semifinals.