Scars can mean many things, but to Hector Becerra, they mean survival.
Some years ago, after a long day at the fishing pond, Becerra and his godbrother decided to take the ride home in the truck bed while his father and godfather were up front in the vehicle. The pond wasn’t far from where they were headed, so the idea didn’t seem too dangerous at time.
However, the most devastating accidents come when they are least expected.
As the truck began crossing a bridge, the power steering malfunctioned, jerking the vehicle violently to the left. What happened next nearly cost the future Division I football player his life.
“We flipped off the bridge,” Becerra said. “(My godbrother) flew out, and I went through the back windshield. I just got cut up.”
Remarkably, everyone survived the accident.
Becerra suffered several deep gashes on his body, with his arms taking the worst of the damage. It took more than 350 stitches to sew up the wounds, and the scars left behind serve as a daily reminder of how lucky he is to be alive.
“I wouldn’t want to remove (the scarring) or get anything to cover it,” Becerra said. “I think it’s pretty cool. I don’t know if you’d say it’s intimidating when other people see me, but I always get asked if people can touch it or if it hurts. I just tell them to go ahead and touch it because it doesn’t hurt. It’s a memory, and I’m blessed to be here today.”
Becerra, a two-way starting lineman at Lawton High, is still often asked what caused the blemishes, but he doesn’t hesitate in letting his quirky sense of humor take over in his responses.
“I always say something random,” Becerra said. “Like I fought a bear, or I fought a shark — something like that. Then they ask if I’m serious, and I just tell them what happened.”
Although his arms are a symbol of his spared life, they also serve as an homage to a family member who wasn’t as fortunate.
Ascending down Becerra’s left tricep reads the name “Angelina”. Those tattooed letters are significant because they spell the name of his late sister.
Becerra was too young at the time to know what was happening to his baby sister, but he said he now believes she was dealing with a brain tumor leading up to her passing.
Given the severity of the condition, doctors were short on options. Either Angelina could stay at a hospital in Oklahoma City with little hope of recovery, or she could go home to the family’s ranch on the outskirts of Medicine Park and spend the final weeks of her life with her loved ones.
The Becerra family chose the latter, and after two short weeks, Angelina passed away on Dec. 30, 2007. She was born earlier that year about seven months prior on May 29.
Becerra wasn’t home when she passed away, but it didn’t take him long to realize the permanence of death.
“It hit me instantly when I found out,” Becerra said. “I was sad about it, and I cried. When we put her in the casket and put her down there, that’s when it really hit me because I knew she wouldn’t come back. When I was younger, I always asked my mom, ‘Why couldn’t God take me instead of her? Do you think she’ll ever come back? Do you think He’ll ever give her back?’”
Although Angelina lived for only a few months, she is just as much a part of Becerra as the scars on his arms. That is why he got the tattoo and displays it with obvious pride on a daily basis.
“She’s always on mind, 24/7,” Becerra said. “She never leaves my mind, and when I get a chance, I like to sit there when I have time to myself and speak to her. I try my best to talk to her every day, probably more than five times a day. Sometimes there are days I’ll just do twice a day, and sometimes I’ll go to 5-6 times a day.”
Becerra plans to carry on Angelina’s memory even more so when he transitions into life as a college football player, becoming the first child of his family to attend college.
Becerra has several Division I offers, including from Iowa State, Utah State and Arkansas Pine-Bluff. He’s also receiving interest from Oklahoma State, Arkansas State and Texas State.
Becerra said he would love nothing more than to make Angelina — along with his mother, step father, two older sisters and other younger sister — proud of not only his accomplishments on the football field, but in life as well.
“I do it for my family,” Becerra said. “They motivated me to get to this point in life, and I don’t want to fail them. Sometimes when I’m down, I think of them. If I ever fail at something, I feel like I’m going to fail them. For me to go to college, it would be awesome.
“I just want to make my family happy and do what’s best for them.”