SAN ANTONIO — Ask him about football, and Xadrian Huerta has an answer. Ask the physically solid athlete to talk about himself, and you'll have to be patient.
"I genuinely don't know what to say," Huerta said.
His accomplishments, though, speak louder than words.
"I have a mindset I'm never satisfied. So I keep pushing to do more," Huerta said.
Beyond the sheepish grin of an 18-year-old who gets self-conscious about saying the right thing in an interview is a John Jay High School athletic warrior going to Columbia University.
"When they first offered me, I didn't--I had no idea what an Ivy (league) school was," Huerta said. "I had no idea what the significance of it was."
The star running back said he didn't realize Columbia had a football team. But a trip to New York City and conversations with leaders of the Lions football program made Huerta want a bite of the big apple.
"As of 2021, Columbia was the hardest Ivy league (colleges) to get into, and this kid got in," Dr. Tiffanie Reyes said.
Reyes is his mother, and she also coaches track and cross country at Jay. Reyes is an assistant athletic coordinator and alumnae of the high school.
"We put a football helmet on him and gave him a football, and it's like he knew instinctively what to do," she said.
Huerta said football was a sport he loved early on.
"There's pictures of me when I was little in helmets running into the couches," he said.
His parents split up, but his father moved to San Antonio, too. Huerta was born in Arlington, but his roots are in San Antonio. He had a chance to attend another school in San Antonio. His athletic family inspired him to become a Mustang. Reyes still holds a school record.
"I've always looked up to her," Huerta said. "She's someone I look up to because of what she's achieved and how independent she is."
The reality of playing college football became obtainable to Huerta as he started getting looks from college coaches in his junior. He dreams of playing in the National Football League.
"The rule that I had in my household was he could not get anything lower than an A," Reyes said.
The road to fulfilling those dreams came with conditions of academic achievement. Reyes said she knew one day he'd thank her for it. And Huerta sees the fruit of what may have been frustration at one time.
"I don't tell her a lot, but I'm like--I'm really proud of her," he said.
Columbia is a first in their family. Reyes said tuition is around $84,000 a year. Even with the school providing a grant to cover most of his tuition, Huerta was about six percent short of paid in full.
Jay basketball standout Chris Ross entered the picture. Ross, who plays for the San Miguel Beermen in the Philippines, helped Huerta out.
"I just felt that he was the perfect person to give to represent the John Jay community," Ross said.
According to Ross, his father, Billy Ross, recently died. To honor his father, he created the Billy Ross Foundation to "do things he would have done if he was still with us."
The Jay alumnus named Huerta as the foundation's first scholarship recipient. Their generosity will cover the rest of Huerta's tuition so he can concentrate on football and his degree in business.
"I felt Xadrian is a great kid and is doing all the right things in and out of the classroom," Ross said. "He is deserving of everything coming his way.
Huerta's lack of knowledge isn't the only thing the graduating senior was unaware of before committing to Columbia.
"We had no idea that he was a salutatorian until the counselor came and found me and told me," Reyes said.
Huerta will leave John Jay with a full resume of football, track, and baseball achievements. The beginning of the legacy he wants to leave behind for future Mustangs without being cocky.
"Every parent wants their child to go on to better and greater things. And he did," Reyes said.
Humility is significant to the self-proclaimed mama's boy.
"He's a phenomenal football player. He's a phenomenal student," Reyes said. "Phenomenal son. He's a great friend. He's a great family member. He's a man of faith. I mean, he's just--he's the total package. He really is."