Shelton’s Villalobos captaincy inspires greater calling

SHELTON -- Jacob Villalobo’s dreams growing up were typical.

He wanted to fit in, find friends, make his parents proud.

Villalobos, being from Shelton, often thought of running between the goal posts with the football team at Finn Stadium. He hoped one day to be a captain. His wish came true on both counts.

At 5 foot 9, 185 pounds, Villalobos was a linebacker/strong safety for the Gaels, who advanced to the Class LL semifinals. What he took from being a quad-captain surprised him.

“Being a captain helped with many things,” said Villalobos, a National Honor Society member who will attend the University of Connecticut. “Players could come up and ask questions. It was really, great. As a freshman I was timid but over time built relationships with my teammates. I was transformed from being a student to being a teacher.”

He loves being with friends, works as much as possible to help pay for college, but Villalobos’ biggest dive is into learning.

“I’m going to study secondary education. I want to teach in high school as soon as I can when I get out of college,” he said. “I find joy in helping and teaching others. I love history and I want to share that…the way that my teachers have guided me.”

Villalobos is aware of the perils that await him. Over time he’s observed that knuckleheads will find a way into every classroom.

“I have to give a shout out to Michelle Piccolo,” Villalobos said of Shelton’s library media specialist. “The foolishness she has got to put up with. I can give you an example. We have an art gallery made of clay and pastel that students have created. Her No. 1 rule is ‘Don’t touch the art work.’ The times I hear her say it over and over again is incredible. Her patience and kindness goes a long way. All the students love Ms. Piccolo.”

Villalobos is a member of the World Language Society.

“My Spanish teacher freshman and junior year was Kerry Pollack. She is someone you can go to and just talk,” he said. “She is a great teacher. She finds a way to make something complex so simple that you can’t forget it. Without her I wouldn’t have gotten into language as much as I had.”

Mom knows best

Villalobos affinity for learning didn’t always include doing his homework as he grew up.

“My mom, Stephanie although I don’t want to admit it, was right all along,” said Villalobos, who carries a 3.98 weighted grade point average. “She was my No. 1 motivator. When I didn’t want to do my homework, it was always school first. School, school, school. Every time I wanted to go off and do something, it was ‘school will get you far in life.’”

His dad Victor kept things simple: “Do your homework or you’re not going out tonight.” There was no need to respond ‘but dad.’

Villalobos said: “My folks are the best. My sister Victoria goes to St. John’s and has been a great mentor helping me with college stuff. I have got to give it to her - she is smart. I can call her up when I have a school problem and she will help me.”

Athletic influence

Villalobos is tri-captain of the track team, where he competes in discus, shot put and javelin throw.

“The sports are different,” he said. “Football is the definition of a team sport. Track is independent. But there are similarities. Both teams are like family. I’m a mentor to the younger throwers. (Captain) Sam Klein (sprinters) and (captain) Will Rodrigues (distance) do the same with their groups.

“With the throwers, Ayden Sepkaski and Joe Gilotti are out for track for the first time and Coach (Mike) Gambardella have them working with Coach (Tony) Branca. It’s been great. I told them everything I knew. Ayden is throwing 160-feet in practice now. It’s crazy being only his third week. He and Joe I’m sure will qualify for states.”

Football was also about preparation.

“We went out and did what we planned,” Villalobos said. “Coach (Mike) DeFelice and all the coaches had us prepped for every possibility every week. Some games may not have gone our way, but our coaches had us ready for everything.”

Freshman to varsity football was smooth.

Villalobos said: “Freshman ball you are on your own team. But I remember the one week we were moved up for the Thanksgiving game and the playoffs, I saw the senior’s leadership at practices. In Shelton specifically, playing freshman ball is important. It is a great spot to grow, learn where you are position wise.”

While he may try club sports down the road, Villalobos’ plans for college are twofold.

“I’m going to focus on my education first,” he said. “But I’m going to the basketball games, the football games, check out the baseball team. I can’t wait to be a fan and experience it (sports) from the other side. Finn Fanatics (student section) were awesome every season. That crowd was crazy. I’ll always remember them, the alumni that come every year, and all our families. No matter how far we travel they were there to support us.” Twitter: @blox354