The football career of Juaquin Iglesias began drawing to a close when he started playing at the University of Oklahoma.
The end could have been August 2012.
Iglesias hoped it wasn’t, believed it wasn’t, but knew the possibility was real enough that he needed to at least entertain the idea of going a different direction.
“You know the time is coming, it’s just a matter of when,” Iglesias said. “But, I’ve been preparing for it since the first day I started playing football in Oklahoma because you just know (that) you get a chance to make it and if you don’t make it, you do something else. That’s how it is.”
The former Killeen High wide receiver was planning to travel with his brother overseas, but at the same time, he was still working out at home, keeping in shape for a phone call, a fifth try at playing professional football.
He didn’t have to wait long. In February, Iglesias signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.
“The opportunity to play football, to provide for my family, it always feels good,” Iglesias said. “I always say I’m going to do it as long as I can. I think to do something that you love is better than doing something that you just have to do.”
Iglesias has three catches for 65 yards in four regular season games with the Argonauts. He is second on the depth chart at slot back and kick and punt returner.
“I’ve been playing more and more as the season goes on, still trying to get used to it,” Iglesias said. “Training camp went good, made the team and just trying to make the plays when it comes to me.”
The Chicago Bears drafted Iglesias out of Oklahoma in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft with the 99th overall pick, but his career in the NFL never took off. He was activated for one just game his rookie season and made a single special teams tackle. He spent the entire 2010 season on the Bears’ practice squad.
“A million kids say that they’re going to go to the NFL and a lot of them don’t. I was one of them that did. It was a little overwhelming,” Iglesias said. “But, at the end of the day, it didn’t really work out in Chicago.”
He spent time with the Minnesota Vikings and the Houston Texans in 2011 and 2012, but didn’t stay with either long and never took the field during the regular season.
“That’s just how football is. It’s always like that, always been like that. It’s a business, before anything. You learned that real quick once you get to the NFL,” Iglesias said. “It’s always about talent, about different stuff that goes into it, and you’ve got to tell yourself, it’s nothing personal. You truly have good relationships with some of these coaches and some of the players, but you know that their job is on the line as well as yours.”
The Argonauts first reached out to Iglesias in 2011, but the receiver shunned the invitation.
“As hard as I worked to get to the NFL, I didn’t want to do anything else,” Iglesias said.
He was signed and cut by both the Vikings and Texans in 2011. The Texans picked him up again in Jan. 2012, but released him as part of the team’s final cuts on Aug. 31.
“Sometimes, it just doesn’t work, not necessarily because of talent,” Iglesias said. “Someone might just be better than you, or maybe (the team has) a lot of injuries so they have to go heavy at a lot of other positions. I’ve been through every situation. ... It’s tough, but it’s the nature of the business. You can’t get down, you’ve got to keep grinding and that’s what I did.”
Only after being cut by the Texans last year, Iglesias had little else but rumors of getting signed again and an option to move on from football until the Argonauts, again, made contact with this agent.
“When I got another chance, I just said I’m going to play football for as long as I can. I had been to Toronto — being at Chicago, we had played up here against the Bills in Toronto and I got a chance to see the city a little bit (in 2010),” Iglesias said. “It’s beautiful up here, it’s nice, so I just jumped at the opportunity the second time it came around.”
Iglesias is among 23 American players on Toronto’s 45-man active roster.
Making the transition from the NFL and American football rules to Canadian football has been one of the obstacles he’s had to hurdle during this journey. In Canadian football, the field is longer (110 yards versus 100) and wider (65 yards against 53 1/2) than the American version; teams get only three downs to pick up a first down instead of four and can have multiple offensive players in motion before the snap of the ball, including players running toward the line of scrimmage.
“The game’s a lot faster-paced, and the fields are wider, so it’s a lot more running. And, the fact that you can run up to the line, that’s something completely new to me,” Iglesias said. “It takes times to get used to and then they always have (so many) little rules in the CFL that it’s hard to go over all at one time in training camp, so you kind of learn on the fly.”
Iglesias had just turned 25 when the Texans cut him last August. Despite his hope and belief that he could still play somewhere, Iglesias admitted he might have given the game his last chance.
“One of the real reasons was not because of football, it was that my daughter is getting older,” Iglesias said. “My daughter means everything to me. And, me spending time with her, the older and older she got, I knew it was going to be even harder for me to leave her to go play or go to training camp because now she’s starting to understand that Daddy’s leaving.
“I was prepared. You know the time is coming, it’s just a matter of when.”
Iglesias’ wife and daughter will be joining him in Toronto soon, he said.
As far as putting the sport behind him, that decision belongs to his body, but he’s just enjoying being able to play the game again and provide for his family, wherever that may be.
“It didn’t really work out in the NFL for me. Maybe one day, I get another shot, maybe I stay up here and play, who knows,” Iglesias said, “but I’m just going to do it as long as I can.”