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Nicholas Delgadillo tries to balance high school, football and fatherhood, but he's learned it's not easy

Nicholas Delgadillo tries to balance high school, football and fatherhood, but he's learned it's not easy
Garfield senior linebacker Nicholas Delgadillo holds his almost 1-year-old son, Nicholas Jr., after a game. (Family photo)

When Rudy Delgadillo arrived at Garfield High School to pick up his son, Nicholas, in the spring of 2017, he sensed something was wrong.

“Why are you quiet?” he asked.

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“I let you down,” Nicholas said over and over while starting to cry.

Then he told his father the truth: His girlfriend was pregnant.

Life was about to change, particularly for Nicholas, who was 16 at the time and a standout football player as well as a top student at Garfield.

“I told him he didn’t let me down,” Rudy said. “It was from God and you were blessed. Now you don’t have to [be a success] for me. You can do it for your baby.”

Nicholas Josiah Delgadillo was born on Dec. 28, 2017.

“It’s hard,” Nicholas said on his 18th birthday last week. “The lesson I learned is life isn’t easy. Once you become a father and bring another life into the world, it’s not only about you anymore. It’s the other one, and that’s your son.”

Balancing school, football and his new responsibilities, Delgadillo has made it through almost one year of daily challenges. He has maintained a 3.7 grade-point average and leads Garfield in tackles with 160 entering the Bulldogs’ final game of the season, a 6 p.m. Saturday clash against Oakland McClymonds at Laney College to decide the CIF Division 4-A state championship. He was the Eastern League defensive player of the year.

“He has navigated his way through it,’’ coach Lorenzo Hernandez said.

Delgadillo doesn’t get as much sleep as he used to, and his responsibilities include changing diapers and playing with Nicholas Jr. until he’s ready to go to bed. Nicholas Jr. and Delgadillo’s girlfriend live with him and his parents. Both mother and father are determined to maintain their grades and graduate.

“It’s been stressful,” Delgadillo said. “I’ve gotten a lot of support from family, but sometimes it’s overwhelming. You have football practice, watch film but I have my son at home. You have to change diapers. I have to feed him. It’s a big responsibility.”

Nicholas Jr. comes to his football games, and instead of looking up to his father for motivation, Delgadillo uses his son to get himself focused.

“I look at him — ‘It’s for you,’” he said. “If I want a better future for myself and family, everything has to be done correctly.”

At 5-feet-10 and 200 pounds, Delgadillo is a senior linebacker who studies game film and picks up tendencies as if he were a coach. He’s also very strong from dedication in the weight room.

“If he gets ahold of you, he’s going to physically make you feel it,” Hernandez said.

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Garfield finished second to Harbor City Narbonne in the City Section Open Division playoffs, then won its regional bowl game over Delano Kennedy 42-10. The team is leaving Friday morning by bus for Oakland and will stay two nights before heading home on Sunday.

Delgadillo has a lot on his mind. He’ll take a moment to do his best for the Bulldogs, but what has happened in the last year has changed him.

“It’s nothing like the movies,” he said of seeing the birth of his son. “It’s a lot of blood, an experience you’ll never forget.”

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