MIAMI, FL (WWBT)- For UVA defensive end and Miami native Mandy Alonso, coming to the Orange Bowl means coming home.
“I grew up watching the Orange Bowl every year,” said Alonso on Friday. “For it to be such a big bowl game, and my friends and family being able to come out, everybody’s asking me for tickets and it’s just awesome that I get to share this experience with them."
”It’s a dream come true for him. He’s super excited," added Alonso’s father, Mandy Alonso Sr.
The elder Alonso is certainly glad to have his son home for the Orange Bowl, and he’s also happy to have the team in town, as he’s become a favorite with the players. Mandy Sr. has only missed one UVA game during his son’s three seasons and, thanks to his regular presence and outgoing personality, has developed a strong bond with many Cavaliers, especially those in the junior class with Mandy.
“He knew everybody on the team before I knew everybody on the team,” joked the younger Alonso. “He’s just a very loud person and he’s just a crazy guy who likes to talk to everybody."
”Very, very outgoing person," added Alonso’s teammate, junior safety Joey Blount. “He’ll be out there at the buses, he’ll FaceTime people on the team and ask them how they’re doing."
”It’s an amazing experience, these three years, developing the relationship with them. I encourage them a lot," noted Mandy Sr. “I just love these kids.”
Blount, perhaps, has a more first-hand look at his classmate’s father’s enthusiasm than his other teammates. He and Alonso were paired together as roommates during their freshman seasons, and the two families became close (watch the attached video for Blount’s impression of a phone call from the older Alonso).
But behind this character is quite a story. Mandy Alonso Sr. was born in Cuba and came to the United States when he was 10 years old. His wife is also a Cuban immigrant, and now they get to see their son flourish in America.
“He’s been a trophy. He’s an only child, so we gave him the life that we didn’t have when we got here,” said Mandy Sr. “We wanted to give him that.”
The younger Alonso does not take any of that for granted.
“I’m their only child. They struggled to have kids, so for me to be on a football team and come to the Orange Bowl and be on this stage, it’s a really good experience for them.”
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