Once homeless, Buckeye (Ariz.) athlete Troy Delgado finds his place, mentors others

Photo: David Kadlubowski, azcentral sports

Once homeless, Buckeye (Ariz.) athlete Troy Delgado finds his place, mentors others

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Once homeless, Buckeye (Ariz.) athlete Troy Delgado finds his place, mentors others

Home for high-school junior Troy Delgado is a house in a tiny outpost called Arlington, about 13 miles west of Buckeye, where there are three power plants and the historic Gillespie Dam Bridge.

Delgado’s previous homes have included a back yard, a homeless shelter and the streets.

Delgado, a Buckeye High School three-sport athlete, no longer worries about where his next meal is coming, where he’s going to lay his head at night, how he is going to get to school, or what his future holds.

Now when he puts on the No. 69 football jersey worn two years ago by Yancey Vanosdell, his big-brother-like mentor, the 5-foot-11, 265-pound junior center knows where he’s going.

“I tell my adopted parents, ‘When I graduate, you won’t see me for two years, because when I come back I’m coming back with a piece of paper and you’re just going to smile’,” Delgado said. “I’m going to come back, graduated, certified with something. I’m going to be grinding for something and someone is going to appreciate me.”

‘Always had a smile on his face’

Last May, Thomas and Michele Vanosdell said they were awarded legal custody of Delgado. They took him out of a group home and provided stability, a sense of family and a place that would nurture his passion for life.

Thomas, who works at a power plant in Arlington, was Delgado’s freshman football coach at Buckeye more than two years ago. Yancey, a 2016 graduate, who is now on a football scholarship at an NAIA school in Kansas, took Delgado under his wing.

“My father raised me not to complain about anything that happened in life, to endure and be yourself,” said Yancey, a 6-foot, 300-pound lineman. “That’s what Troy was. You could talk to him every day and you wouldn’t know what his situation was at home. He never complained, always had a smile on his face. We didn’t know the extent of his situation until my father heard it from a coach.

“I went up and asked, ‘Are you OK?’ He said he was fine. He was never a poor-me type of person. That’s what my dad loved about him. He loved Troy’s work ethic. Always wanting to learn. That is what influenced our decision to bring him in.”

Delgado’s optimism never wavered, not even when he was shuffling from family to family in the seventh grade. Not even when he was living on the streets and when he was sleeping in his dad’s friend’s back yard. Not even when he was living in a homeless shelter. Not even when his father was incarcerated at the end of his freshman year. Not even when he would go a couple of days without food. Not even when he was placed in a group home by the Department of Child Safety his sophomore year. Not even when he would have to get up at 5:30 each morning to get to school and then wait at night for a taxi outside the school to get him back.

“He has overcome some of the difficulties of the world that sometimes gets pressed on some kids and families, especially with economic times as they are,” said Buckeye head football coach Kelley Moore, who waited with Delgado for those cabs.

“He never uses those things as excuses to lose, but reasons to win,” Moore said. “Everyone who is around him is better.”

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