SAN ANTONIO – Carlos Enrico became synonymous with Central Catholic during his 40-year career as a football coach and athletic director at his alma mater.

Enrico will be honored at the Buttons’ football home opener Friday night.

Enrico held the dual position of head football coach and athletic director at Central for 24 years before he left coaching in February 2011. Enrico, 63, remained as AD until he retired in June.

“A lot of my lifelong friends, we respect him and we adore what he’s done for Central Catholic,” John Torres, who quarterbacked Enrico’s first team 30 years ago, said Thursday. “It’s sad that he’s not going to be there anymore, not associated with the school anymore. But when you think of Central Catholic, you think of Carlos Enrico.”

A 1972 Central graduate, Enrico returned to the private school as an assistant coach in 1976 and was promoted to head football coach and athletic director in 1987.

Enrico went 159-107-2 in his 24 seasons as head coach, leading the Buttons to a TCIL state championships in 1990 and a TAPPS state title in 2001.

A pre-game tailgate party for Enrico is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. by the walkway to Benson ’66 Stadium on the Central campus.

Enrico will be honored at halftime of the Central-Harlandale game, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. The Buttons are off to a 2-0 start under first-year head coach Mike Santiago.

A 1972 Central Catholic graduate, Carlos Enrico returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach in 1976 and was promoted to head football coach and athletic director in 1987.

Known for his affable nature, sarcasm and biting sense of humor, Enrico is also given to warm sentiment when it comes to two things: his family and his beloved Central.

“He’s a straight shooter,” said Torres, 47, who graduated from Central in 1988 and is now an assistant coach at Judson. “He tells you how it is. He’s not going to beat around the bush on anything.

“He’s always about Central Catholic. He’s always looking out for the best of the school. He puts that ahead of everything but his family.”

One of the best tributes to Enrico after his retirement came from Father John Markey, a 1980 Central graduate.

“I know a lot of stuff from behind the scenes, and I can tell you that Carlos is the heart and soul of that place,” Markey said.

Enrico was still a senior at Southwest Texas State in 1976 when he was hired as a part-time assistant coach at Central by Harold Keller. He became a full-time coach in 1977 and remained on the Buttons’ staff for 10 seasons before succeeding Marshall Fleener as head coach in 1987.

Carlos Enrico graduated from Central Catholic in 1972 and returned to the school as an assistant coach in 1976, starting a 40-year career in the Buttons' athletic department. 

Enrico said he is enjoying retirement and having more time to spend with his wife, Carmen, who is also retired.

“Being here with Carmen, I’m eating healthy and walking every morning,” Enrico said, adding that he’s lost about 10 pounds since his retirement. “It’s neat. I’ve been doing a lot of honey-dos, stuff around the around, stuff that I’ve been neglecting for years. When I used to cut the grass, I’d just throw the lawnmower in the garage. Now I clean it before I put it away.

“I’m not in a hurry anymore. The stress is gone and that’s the best part. I’m having a great time. I love it. I love the matinees, going to the movies because Carmen and I are the only ones in there. Before I retired, I couldn’t tell you the last time I had been to the movies.

Central won 20 state titles in eight different sports during Enrico’s tenure as athletic director. But his influence extended beyond the fieldhouse and transcended sports. In time, Enrico became one of the most beloved figures in the long history of Central Catholic.

“I have something that a lot of guys in my position don’t have,” Enrico said. “I graduated from there, too. Central has been a special place for me, not only working there 40 years, but also being there an extra four when I went to school there. So, 44 years of my life, I’ve been at Central Catholic.

“All I know is that I tried to put in as much hard work every day when I was there. I owe a lot to a lot people who were my mentors, especially the Marianists, the brothers, the priests. A lot of them are still some of my good friends.”

Carlos Enrico, receiving an Army award for the Central Catholic football team before a game in 2014, held the dual position of head coach and athletic director for 24 years.

Enrico and his wife have attended Mass every Sunday for years at the chapel on the Central campus.

“That’s not going to change,” Enrico said. “That’s something special to us.”

Carmen and Carlos Enrico have a son, Chris. Carmen’s youngest sister, Yoli, and their mother, Lydia Gracia, 93, are traveling from their home in Brownsville to attend Friday night’s festivities for Enrico. Yolanda’s daughters, Angela Millis and Lydia Morales, also are expected to be there.

“It’s going to be special to have my two nieces there because they’re like my daughters,” Carlos said. “They’re both coming from hurricane places. Angela lives in Katy and Lydia lives in Jacksonville (Fla.). Lydia left there and came all the way to Brownsville.”

Enrico was the second of five children born to Enriqueta and Leon Enrico, both deceased. Enrico played quarterback and was a standout track athlete at Central.

“What I love the best is being around players, the kids – not kids, men – that I coached,” Enrico said. “To me, that means the world to me. To see these guys be successful is a coach’s dream. It really is.”