California Dreamin?

On Sept. 16, Bryan Arguello stepped off a plane in his native state of California;90 minutes from his home in Orange, Calif. to be precise. Even though the senior safety left home only 25 days before for preseason practice in Philadelphia, this trip home had a whole new meaning. It was the first time his family and friends would see him don the Penn Red and Blue.

"My parents had never seen me play college football before," Arguello said. "It was great to play in front of a lot of family and friends to show them what we were all about. There are 15 of us on the team from California and it was definitely exciting to be able to travel home to play in front of my crowd."

Arguello said he wasn't nervous about his first live performance in front of his family, just excited. "They have been reading about how good we are for the last three years and they finally got a chance to see me and the team play," he said. "They were impressed with how good we were and how good we looked. My friends have always tried to knock Division I-AA football, but they were really impressed with our defense and how many points we put up."

Arguello's return to the Golden State was like a flashback to his good old high school days. His entire family and a group of friends came to watch him in action. His parents, sisters Princessa (17) and Tatiana (16) and brothers Jerry (27) and Oliver (25) were all there. Princessa made signs that said "Go Penn No. 5" and "Let's Go Quakers" and flashed them to the crowd whenever he was on the field.

"I tried to stay focused on the game, but when I saw my family coming down the stands and my little sisters had their posters - I couldn't help but smile. I was obviously trying to keep my mind on the game, but around the third and fourth quarter when we up by a lot, I threw in a little wave and they went crazy cheering for me in the stands. It felt really good.

"After the game, they told me it was so much different, so much cooler actually seeing a Penn football game live. A lot of the guys finally got to meet my parents and the rest of my family. I've grown up with so many of my teammates and have gotten to know their parents, so it was kind of nice getting to reverse roles and have them in my company. My parents met some of my friends they heard so much about for the first time. It was perfect."

Arguello remembers his high school playing days, when most of the fans in the crowd were pulling for him. "In high school we had a certain student section of the crowd named the 'Blue Crew' who's main job was basically to dress up as weird as possible and heckle the other team. They cheered throughout the game and could definitely be heard on the field at any point in the game. A majority of them were my friends from other sports teams. I made sure I acknowledged them at each game, which really got them going. After the game was always a tradition of going to the local pizzaria 'Zito's' to hang out and celebrate. It was a popular place to be and a great place to see all my friends after the game."

Prior to the Quakers trip to California, Bryan's family relied on the internet and videos to see him in action. "Sophomore year my parents listened to the game on the website, but last year when our games were on CN8 they were able to actually get a live video feed to watch. At the end of the season I brought home all the tapes and the highlight videos. But it's obviously totally different when you can look into the stands and see your own little cheering section."

After three years in West Philadelphia, Bryan has gotten used to living in the city and all the quirks of the East Coast, but still misses home. "The two coasts are so different. When I first got here it was a culture shock. Not only did I have to deal with the difference in weather, but adjusting to college and football at the same time. I'm definitely glad I came here - it gave me a chance to grow up a little bit. But it is definitely nice to go home.

"Coming to Penn allowed me to be independent. This meant I had to do everything on my own for the first time ... move in by myself, do my laundry and there were no home cooked meals. Missing these simple things made me appreciate home a lot more. I think it's that way for a lot of people who move away from home, but the fact that I came from so far away and couldn't go home whenever I wanted to has made me a much stronger person.

"I'm not sure if my family has noticed a difference in me or not, but the appreciation I have for them and what I have at home has definitely increased based solely on the fact that I moved out here. Just living here has definitely opened my eyes to a whole different culture; A whole group of people that I've made friends with from across the country because of this. I definitely don't regret it one bit and if I had to do it all over again, I'd do the exact same thing. As much as I love home, I'm glad that I had this experience."

When it came to choosing a college, Bryan knew his move to the East Coast was inevitable.

"I knew I wanted to play football and I was being recruited by most of the Ivy League schools. I knew from the beginning of my college search that I was going to be coming out here. When I took my trips out here, I was drawn to Penn because of the coaches and the players. Penn was the best opportunity for me especially with Wharton. With the track record of Penn in football and academically with Wharton, in a way Penn chose me.

After Bryan moved out here he didn't know what to expect especially when it came to football.

"As a freshman I won the starting kicker spot on the varsity squad and didn't do too well the first few games. I was relieved of my duties and made back-up kicker, which was terrible for me. I felt like I blew my only shot and I didn't know if the coaches would ever let me play defensive back again or what would happen.

"You could say freshman year was definitely a rollercoaster in terms of adjusting to everything. Everyone is a star when they are in high school and when they come to college no one really plays as a freshman and to be relegated to just a kicker - I didn't know if I was ever going to get another shot. Luckily spring ball came along and things turned around and coach gave me a shot to play defense which worked out pretty well."

It has worked out well for the Villa Park High School graduate. As a sophomore he played in eight games and recorded an interception in Penn's title clinching victory against Harvard. Last year, he earned second-team All-Ivy honors, made a team-high four interceptions and recorded 38 solo tackles and 17 assisted.

The Quakers may have won the west with their 61-18 defeat of San Diego, but the west has won Bryan. Although the management major is not sure of his future plans - he knows he will return to the Golden State.

"I'm going home unless something ridiculous comes up. Obviously I'm pretty focused on football right now but we'll see what happens second semester in terms of finding a job. Ideally, I'd like to go back home and visit here every once in a while. Come back for Homecomings and stuff like that."

Bryan called his trip home memorable but said he knew from the start it was a 'business' trip. "We got in late on Thursday night and ate some pizza before going to bed. On Friday we saw the naval carrier (USS Ronald Regan) but as soon as the tour was over it was back to the task at hand."

Bryan said some of his teammates' families came into town the first night and were able to see them. But the Arguello's had obligations. "I knew I wasn't going to see my family before the game, which was fine with me. Just knowing they were going to be there at the game was good enough for me.

"We saw the naval carrier and after that it was back to the business trip basically. As soon as we finished the tour the coaches were like, 'alright this time's over time for the business trip' and we got into practice, got into meetings, getting focused for the game."

Bryan's parents will get one more chance to see their son play, this time on the Quaker's own turf. "My parents are coming out for the Harvard game at the end of the season for 'Senior Day' - so we are both pretty excited about their trip to Franklin Field. This trip was definitely special, but when they come to Philadelphia they will get to see us play on our turf - in Penn football's home."

"I told them the best thing about Franklin Field was that is was OUR home. You come out of the tunnel before the game starts and you're all pumped up and ready to get on the field, then you see Coach Lake, who gets the entire team motivated. Granted it's a 50,000 seat stadium, but you see the same familiar faces in the crowd and you want to go out and win for those people. Against Harvard I'll be able to see my parents’ faces in that crowd. It will be a good way to end my career at Franklin Field.

"I told them what to expect, told them to bring their toast and lots of warm clothing. It's the last home game and hopefully they will be ready."

Written by Heather Palmer, associate director of athletic communications
(Published in the Oct. 2, 2004 edition of Franklin Field Illustrated)