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Saturday, December 6, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Seahawks

Catching up with Efren Herrera: Ex-kicker fields range of goals

Seattle Times staff reporter

Pioneer. Entrepreneur. Volunteer. Golfer. Father.

And in the late 1970s and early '80s, Efren Herrera was the Seahawks' popular field-goal kicker.

Herrera, now 52 and living in Pomona, Calif., outside of Los Angeles, spends his time golfing on a celebrity tour, doing volunteer work, tutoring and mentoring at-risk youth, and taking care of his 2-year-old son, Efren.

"I'm trying to stay out of trouble," Herrera joked. "I'm not trying to get too busy doing things."

Herrera has built a life for himself out of his athletic achievements and generosity. He came to the United States at age 15 from Guadalajara, Mexico, not knowing anything about American football. When his coach at La Puente High School near L.A. saw Herrera kick a basketball into a soccer goal, a career in football was born.

Herrera actually turned down an opportunity after high school to return to his native country and play soccer, preferring to stay in the U.S. for a college scholarship.

A stellar soccer and football career at UCLA led to four years and a Super Bowl appearance with the Dallas Cowboys. Then a trade brought him to the Seahawks, where Herrera became a fan favorite, on and off the field, from 1978 to 1981.

"We didn't have a lot of great players," he recalled of his Seahawks days, "but we had a lot of guys who put effort into it."

Herrera went on to play for Chuck Knox for one season in Buffalo (1982) before Knox came to Seattle, then played one season (1984) in the USFL with the Oklahoma Outlaws.

He never understood, and still doesn't to this day, why no NFL teams ever signed him after 1982. Herrera felt he could have played several more years.

Nevertheless, he is proud of being one of the first Latinos to play in the NFL. He spurned an offer to play for the Los Angeles Aztecs of professional soccer to sign an NFL contract.

"I felt that Hispanics didn't have enough role models in the NFL," Herrera said.

Following his lead, Max Montoya and Anthony Munoz entered the league from Southern California colleges. Rafael Septien took over as the Cowboys' kicker after Herrera left Dallas. Today, more and more Latinos are reaching the NFL and excelling.

Herrera never turned down a chance to make a difference and be involved in the community, visiting children in the Yakima Valley in his spare time when he was with the Seahawks. He would visit sick children in local hospitals, something he continues to do today with Christian Okoye, former Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl running back. Herrera did commercial spots for the United Way, one of the NFL's biggest charities, and he organized a fundraiser for his Efren Herrera Scholarship Foundation for Latino youth.

With everything Herrera has accomplished, he still harbors a dream.

"I would love to coach in the NFL one day," he said.

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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