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ThunderWolf football’s Florida connection

Ben Estica, #40, is one of seven Thunderwolf football players from Santaluces High School in Florida.
Ben Estica, #40, is one of seven ThunderWolf football players from Santaluces High School in Florida.
Photo by Dustin Cox

Santaluces Community High School might not sound familiar to a lot of people, but for seven members of the CSU-Pueblo football team it was home for four years.

Santaluces is home to the Chiefs and is located in the town of Lantana, Fla. It has a population of just over 2,000 students.  Over the last five years, seven former students from Santaluces have made the 1,932 mile trip to CSU-Pueblo in search of one common goal: to play football.

Seniors C.J. Roberts and Jarrod Lacy both grew up in Boynton Beach and graduated in 2010.  They made the trip together to continue their football journey and have spent their entire collegiate careers sharing duties in the defensive secondary for CSU-Pueblo.

Roberts played cornerback in high school and looked to continue that in college.  He was a redshirt in his first year of eligibility, but has become a fixture for the ThunderWolves since his first start in 2011.  He started every game over the last three seasons.

Lacy was a running back in high school, but made a position change to safety after moving to college.  He also was a redshirt in 2010, and did not make his first start at safety until 2012.  In that season, he was named to the Second Team All-RMAC for his role on the defensive side of the ball.

The next player to leave Florida for Colorado was linebacker Ben Estica.  He graduated from Santaluces in 2011 and was also a redshirt in his first season.  He spent that season as a backup linebacker, but enjoyed a nice amount of success in his first year as a starter.  He was named to the Second Team All-RMAC in 2013, after being among the league leaders in tackles.

Defensive back Mannie Rathell graduated from Santaluces in 2011 as well, but did not make his way to CSU-Pueblo until the 2012 season.  Rathell previously attended Mt. San Jacinto Junior College before moving to Pueblo.  He sat out the 2012 season and saw limited action in 2013, but he has become a veteran leader in the same defensive secondary as Roberts and Lacy.

In 2012, running back Fradlet Dort graduated from the high school and followed his former teammates to CSU-Pueblo to continue the tradition of Chief football in Pueblo.  Dort was a redshirt in 2012 and only saw action in seven games for the ThunderWolves in 2013.

The most recent addition to the line of former Chiefs is wide receiver Rico Jean-Louis.  Jean-Louis is currently a redshirt freshman and has not seen any action yet for the ThunderWolves.

The seventh member of the team from Santaluces has made a few pit stops along the way.  Defensive back LeVon Floyd graduated in 2009 and decided to attend college at Delta State where he was a redshirt in his first season.  He saw the college field for the first time in 2010 at Delta State, but that was his last year before moving to De Anza College in California.  In 2011, Floyd played in seven games for De Anza before making another move and quitting football for an entire year.

Floyd sat out the entire 2012 season and did not play football for any school.  In 2013, he finally made the circle complete and wound up at CSU-Pueblo to join the same defensive secondary as former teammates C.J. Roberts, Jarrod Lacy, and Mannie Rathell.

The history of ThunderWolf football is long and full of tradition, but none are quite as unique as the bond shared between the men from Santaluces Community High School in Florida.