It was an on-the-field hit that rocked high school football fans in Texas and across the nation. Tuesday, members of the University Interscholastic League heard the appeal of one of the players who blind-sided a referee during a game in marble falls.
With his coach by his side Victor Rojas stood up and wiped away tears moments after members of the UIL voted to let him play football again next fall.
"It’s unanimous. Victor you got a shot here, we wish you well,” said Chairman Mike Motheral.
In 2015, Victor Rojas was a member of the Jay High School football team. During a game in Marble Falls Rojas and teammate Michael Moreno were caught on camera as they blind-sided referee Robert Watts. The players claimed the double hit was ordered by a coach who was upset with how the game was being called. Tuesday morning, before members of the UIL executive committee voted, Rojas offered this apology.
"If Mr. Watts was here I'd look him in the eye and tell him I'm sorry, it was the biggest mistake I've ever made. I hope he does forgive me,” said Rojas.
The athletic director for Northside ISD told the committee he believes Rojas has learned a lesson and deserves another chance.
"I think we talk all the time about instilling values in our young people, and one of the most important values, through this whole process, is the value of forgiveness,” said Stan Lang.
Rojas and Moreno were both punished in 2015 for the on-field cheap shot. They finish that year off the team and in alternative school. Moreno eventually graduated while Rojas remained on suspension, which kept him off the field this past season. State Rep. Jason Isaac ( R ) Dripping Springs was not sure if that was enough and put his concerns into writing. He sent a letter, on behalf of referee Robert Watts who lives in his district, urging the UIL not to re-instate Rojas.
"I hope for him, that he improves his behavior and learns to accept responsibility for this and continues to feel remorse and continues to apologize,” said Rep. Isaac.
Isaac has his doubts especially after finding troubling posts on Roja's facebook site. The copies Isaac showed FOX 7 seem to boast about the hit and others like it.
"Right now if a player attacks an official, it could be a Class C Misdemeanor, a traffic ticket, equivalent. If someone comes out of the stands it’s a Class B Misdemeanor. So it’s more severe, so we are looking at legislation, drafting legislation now, and working with referees, throughout the state because we see these incidents of attacks on referees increasing around the country and there needs to be a better deterrent,” said Isaac.
The probation Rojas is on allows him to practice with the track team this spring - and participate in summer football drills. Officials with Northside ISD and the UIL promise to keep a close watch and say another mistake in judgement will result in Rojas being benched permanently.
Referee Robert Watts had no comment, but FOX7 was told Watts returned to officiating this past season. Mack Breed, the assistant coach who allegedly ordered the on field hit, lost his job, his license to teach and plead guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge. Jay High School Head coach Gary Gutierrez was given a public reprimand by the UIL and was placed on 2 years’ probation.