Thursday, Oct 21 at 6:14 AM
As the Edison High School football team moves from drill to drill during workouts, head coach Albert Torres utters two different words repeatedly from the first whistle of practice to the last.
“Quickly, quickly, he says. “Tempo, tempo.”
His players respond with the hustle that has become second nature to the Golden Bears since Torres took over the program at his alma mater in February 2007.
“Coach Torres keeps us motivated,” senior quarterback Sergio Neaves said during a workout this week. “He fires everybody up. He stays on us.”
Lest you get the wrong idea, Torres is hardly the drill-sergeant type. But while he’s no screamer, he has no problem keeping his players focused on the task at hand.
Torres simply has a knack for getting the most from his players with his dedication and commitment to make them better on and off the field.
At 36, Torres is one of the city’s up-and-coming high school coaches and an exemplary mentor.
“He’s wise beyond his years,” said assistant coach Charles Canales, who has been on the Edison staff since 1985.
A 1992 Edison graduate, Torres is 24-14 since succeeding Javier Cardenas and has the Bears in contention to win their first district championship since 1981.
Edison, 6-1 overall and 4-0 in District 29-4A, plays Southside (4-2, 3-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Alamo Stadium.
Golden Bears 'staying in the moment'
The seniors on this year’s Bears team were freshmen when Torres, an assistant at Jefferson for nine seasons, returned to Edison. They went 10-0 as freshmen and 10-0 on the junior varsity.
“They’ve had a lot of success,” Torres said. “They’ve learned our system and they’ve learned to win some close games. I’ve always told them that there are going to be peaks and valleys in every season. When you get behind, you have to keep pressing on and keep pushing.”
While the Bears lead the district race with three regular-season games left, Torres said he’s been impressed with his team’s attitude since it knocked off previously unbeaten Kennedy last week.
“Our kids are excited but they’re staying in the moment, and not looking ahead,” Torres said. “I tell the kids all the time that we want to be better today than we were yesterday.”
While Torres’ coaching philosophy is rooted in teaching his players to do things quickly and efficiently on the field, he never hesitates to take a moment to impart a life lesson.
“He’s always talking to the kids about doing the right thing,” said Jesse Monreal, who coaches the defensive line.”
Billy Montemayor has coached at Edison, his alma mater, since 1983 and is the senior member of the staff. He was the Bears’ secondary coach when Torres was a cornerback in the early 1990s.
“He was tough and he was sharp,” Montemayor said. “I always thought he would make a good coach.”
Torres didn't start college planning to be coach
For all the passion he has for coaching, Torres didn’t start college with that profession in mind. After graduating from Edison, he enrolled at UTSA and pursued a degree in electrical engineering until changing his mind after his junior year.
“I didn’t know if I really liked the career I was pursuing,” Torres said. “When you don’t have a passion for what you’re doing, it’s tough.”
At a crossroads, Torres sought the counsel of former Edison coaches Gregg Williams, Jim Jordan and Jim Bailey before deciding to change his career plans.
“They knew me and I wanted to know what they thought about me going into coaching,” Torres said.
Torres graduated from UTSA in 1998 with a degree in math and secondary education, and joined Bailey’s staff at Jefferson that fall.
Torres was as dedicated in the classroom as he was in the field house, serving as chairman of the math department at Jefferson one year.
Edison went 7-3 in its first season under Torres and was 6-4 in 2008. The Bears’ record changed to 7-3 in 2008 after Burbank forfeited its victory for using an ineligible player.
Edison finished 4-7 last year but made the playoffs.
Torres credits his assistants for much of the Bears’ success.
“I have a great staff,” he said.
This year’s team opened the season with a 26-23 victory over Pleasanton, but lost to Kyle Lehman 28-21 the following week. The Bears have won five straight games since then, beating Sam Houston (17-16), Memorial (45-16), Burbank (14-10), Brackenridge (39-36) and Kennedy (28-14).
The Bears have flourished despite facing adversity. They lost starting running back Rene Hernandez to a season-ending knee injury in their opener and played without Neaves last week. Neaves, who is recovering from a boil on his right leg, is questionable for this week’s game.
“I told our players that adversity is part of life,” Torres said. “You just have to keep going.”
And move quickly.