Andres Begne, an international student-athlete from Mexico City, Mexico, has been the starting quarterback for the Wildkats for the 2019-20 football season.
Previous to his move to Kokomo, the 17-year-old spent last school year in Boise, Idaho, as an international student. After discovering the academics were too easy for him, he began searching for a school that offered a more rigorous curriculum. He found Kokomo High School and then reached out to Wildkats Head Coach Richard Benberry, expressing his interest in playing football.
“He wanted to come here and get ready to play football. I thought that was a kid taking initiative that you don’t see a lot of the time, especially a kid from another country,” Benberry said.
In Mexico, soccer is widely the most popular sport in the country. Growing up, Begne’s father often would watch American football on TV. Watching and listening to it on TV helped Begne learn English, he said. Influenced by his father’s love for the sport, Begne quit playing soccer at age 7 and began his football career.
Unlike high schools in the United States, Mexico does not have school-affiliated sports available, according to Begne. If a student wanted to partake in a sport, he would have to join a recreational league where players often practice late in the evening instead of right after school. Additionally, in Mexico, teams do not typically exercise or put in work during the off-season, Begne said, so he had to get used to the 6 a.m. weightlifting and workouts that are practiced here.
“Fortunately, I didn’t have a lot of problems with English, with speaking. You see people that barely speak English. [Things] can get really hard, but I didn’t have any problems when I got here. It took me some time to adapt to the American lifestyle, but it’s just different,” Begne said.
Since joining the football team, Begne quickly made friends with the other players. According to Benberry, Begne has been a positive addition to the team with his ability to sling the ball and lead the offense.
“He and I have had conversations about being on the guys. 'If you want them in a spot, instead of me telling them, it’s actually more effective if you tell them because of the fact that you have to play with them. I can tell them as a coach, and it goes in and sticks. But if you tell them, it goes in and sticks better because you’re their teammate. You’re in the quarterback position. You’re considered a leader.’ So, that’s probably the biggest contribution, is that he is becoming a leader. He’s learning the leadership role,” Benberry said.
The decision to make Begne starting quarterback was easy, according to Benberry. The previous quarterback graduated, so the coach was ready for a player to fill the position. Begne and fellow senior Kohl Beard split time as quarterback, with Beard playing some on the defense. With Begne being more of a passer with the ability to run, this provides an element for both boys, said Benberry, which opposing teams have to prepare for.
“He’s a great kid to have around. He helps the team tremendously and just an awesome person. Sometimes you worry about kids who move from another country, especially being an only child. How will they assimilate to everything? And he’s assimilated well to everything. You see his personality, and he has one. And it shows every day. I’m happy for him. I’m happy he’s here,” Benberry said.
Begne currently stays in a dorm at the Residential International Exchange Hall in downtown Kokomo, residing with other international students attending the high school. One weekend a month and on fall, winter, and spring break, Begne stays with his host family, Stacey and Tera Pollard, and their children. Lately, schedules have been busy to due to sports, but Begne looks forward to spending more time with the family soon and taking a potential trip to King’s Island.
Currently, Begne is taking four advanced placement (AP) courses at Kokomo High School. After graduating, he has hopes to continue his football career at an American college or university, studying mathematics.