WASHINGTON (DC News Now) – Washington Commanders’ head coach Ron Rivera is of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent – and he is the only current Latino head coach in the NFL.
Rivera has previously broken barriers for Latinos in the NFL, he became the first player of Puerto Rican descent to win a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears in 1985.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage month, Brandy Flores sat down exclusively with coach Rivera to talk about his experience as a Latino in the NFL and how he is using his success to help others achieve the same.
BRANDY FLORES: “Coach, as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, being the only Latino head coach in the NFL, why is it important to celebrate culture?”
RON RIVERA: “I think to bring a little pride to our community, to the Hispanic community, just because of the fact that it shows that, hey, you’re capable of anything. It doesn’t matter where you come from, doesn’t matter what your ethnicity is, it just matters that when you get the opportunity to make the most of it, and that’s what I’ve tried to do.”
FLORES: “You have definitely been a trailblazer in the NFL, someone who came before you, Tom Flores. He was the first Latino starting quarterback and first Latino head coach to win a Super Bowl. What is your relationship like with him?”
RIVERA: “Coach (Flores) has been very good. He really has. He’s been a voice of reason, a voice of example, he helped mentor me, and he’s somebody that every now and then I get an opportunity to visit with it’s been really cool, and it’s been great to talk to coach.”
FLORES: “Why is it important to have other Latinos in this space where you can connect with them?”
RIVERA: “I think because the example, like if, if if I go through a rough patch, he’s (Flores) somebody I can reach out to and ask something about because he’s trailblazer, and that’s an example I want to follow.”
FLORES: “Somebody else who’s also coaching in the DMV area, managing a team is Washington Nationals’ manager, Dave Martinez. It’s pretty rare that we have two of you guys, Latinos, managing and coaching professional teams, are you guys close when you came here? How was your guys’ relationship?”
RIVERA: “When we got here, it was COVID-19 and Davey had already won his championship, which was really cool to see it really was. I had the opportunity to go and meet him and spend a bit of time with him. I mean, it’s something else because I draw inspiration from a guy like that guy. He’s played the game and has won at the highest level and won. I got to the highest level as a head coach, but we didn’t win, and my goal is to win one. So everything I’m doing is geared towards winning that Super Bowl, so I can be that example. Getting an opportunity to talk to Davey and just know what he’s gone through winning his championship and what it was like. So I think that’s very important.”
FLORES: “People look up to you because you’re successful in the NFL and because of your Hispanic heritage, why is that important to you, that not just because of your skill, but who you are as a person, people like to celebrate you?”
RIVERA: Well, I think it’s important because it’s a role that I’ve accepted. That I am a role model, I am somebody that people can sit there and find inspiration from, and that’s important. So I try to make sure I do things the right way. I try to make sure that when I do, you know, do things it is done with the attitude and the thought that you know, somebody like me will come and want to be like me.”
FLORES: “And how has the Commanders’ franchise supported you as a Hispanic here?”
RIVERA: “I think that’s been great. You know, the one thing that the Snyders’ (Washington Commanders’ team owners) have done is they’ve opened it up to me to do things the way that I think is best. With that in mind, I’ve hired who I’ve hired. I hired Jennifer King to be the first female and black assistant coach, I hired Natalia Dorantes to be the first Latina in the position she is as Chief of Staff. You want to have those kinds of opportunities, so you can allow people those chances.”
FLORES: “There’s obviously not a lot of Latino head coaches or on coaching staffs or even players in the NFL. As we know, America is kind of this melting pot, you specifically, you’re coming from two different cultures being Puerto Rican and Mexican. What do you think the NFL could do to get more Latinos to play in the NFL or coach?”
RIVERA: “Well, I think what we’re trying to do right now with the NFL is we’ve created this Play 60 program and we’ve created this, this flag football program to introduce it. When it’s flag it kind of makes it even for everybody, for young ladies included. One thing that I’ve learned in my position is that when you create opportunities for everybody, it doesn’t matter, gender or race, you’re opening up that pool of candidates and you’re gonna find the best possible candidate and that’s really important.”
The Washington Commanders currently employ the most Latinos on their coaching staff in the NFL, including coach Rivera, they have four on staff.
WASHINGTON COMMANDERS LATINOS ON COACHING STAFF:
HEAD COACH – RON RIVERA
ASSISTANT LINEBACKERS/DEFENSIVE QUALITY CONTROL – VINCENT RIVERA
TIGHT ENDS COACH – JUAN CASTILLO
DEFENSIVE QUALITY CONTROL – CRISTIAN GARCIA