Dante Santoyo, 17, is a student-athlete who excels beyond the playing field.
Known by his Alisal High football teammates and fans as “The Inferno,” Santoyo earned the nickname by powering past anyone in his way.
“I go on the field and make others fear me,” said Santoyo, whose strength extends beyond the field of play. Unlike many student-athletes, Santoyo is also the man of the house.
Santoyo has contributed to this year’s 7-2 record by starting every game and encouraging teammates to strive for more. At home, Santoyo has taken on the responsibility of being the role model to his younger siblings and serves as his mother’s backbone.
Coming from a single-parent home, the pressure to be great is present at all times. However, Alisal coach Sunil Smith says it’s pressure that he can handle.
“His mother has nothing to worry about,” Smith said. “He’s going to do a great job. He has the desire to play football, but this young man is a college-bound student, regardless of football.”
Santoyo has not settled on a college just yet, but said he is considering schools like San Jose State and Hartnell College, where he can continue to play football.
“I want to continue helping my team get to the top and finish this season strong,” he said. “Next year, I hope to play at the next level, but I am uncertain of where that will be.”
In his game against North Monterey County, Santoyo, as a defensive end, recorded solo 15 tackles and three sacks. On offense, Santoyo he rushed for 64 yards while playing fullback. Santoyo is just as talented in the classroom and within his community.
“He’s an outstanding kid who not only sets his goals, but goes through with them,” Smith said. “He came on as a freshman and told me he would play varsity next year … he did it. He then told me that he would maintain a grade point average of a 3.0 or above, and he has done it.”
In fact, Santoyo has maintained a grade point average of 3.0 or higher every semester since his freshman year.
Santoyo’s community work is known by peers and teachers alike. Activities such as volunteering free time at the local YMCA, tutoring students during lunch or assisting special education students throughout the year all are part of the respectable brand that he has developed.
“I work hard,” Santoyo said. “I contribute to the team and my community all that I can. And on the field, I just keep playing until the whistle blows.
“All I want is to be able to teach my younger siblings that anyone can be great.”
Santoyo is thankful to his coaches and mother, who he says are always there for him for the good games and the bad ones, always reminding him to keep his head up.
“They support me,” he said. “They have my back, they are the reason I strive to be the best at what I do.”
As an excellent-student athlete, an outstanding community member, and a great role model to his siblings, Dante is this week’s Valley VIP.
* Valley VIP spotlights an athlete from the Central Coast for his or her skills on and off the field. To be chosen, an athlete must demonstrate superior athletic abilities as well as an ideal role model to residents in the Salinas Valley area. To nominate an athlete, email your nomination to
. Be sure to include the player’s full name, sport, high school or college team.