After redshirting a year and then transferring from Georgia State, 2013 Adairsville graduate Hiram Velez went to Scottsdale Community College in Arizona with one goal in mind — to return to a Division I football program.
On Jan. 8, Velez accomplished that goal as he signed to play for Troy University of the Sun Belt Conference.
“I came out here with the motive, because out of high school, I really didn’t have the looks that I wanted,” Velez said of earning a D-I scholarship. “Coming into Scottsdale, I kind of had a chip on my shoulder. I went out there with one goal and that was to earn a Division I scholarship, and I wound up doing it.”
“When I got the news he was going there, I texted him and said, ‘Your hard work and persistence is paying off. We’re happy that you found a way to continue to chase your dreams,’” Adairsville head football coach Eric Bishop said. “We’re very, very proud of him for that.”
Velez said he had received interest from UNLV, Cal Poly, Utah and Temple, but decided to go with the offer from Troy.
“The school that offered me first was Troy. So that’s another reason why I committed to come here is they pulled the trigger on me first,” Velez said. “The coaches have been recruiting me for a few months now. It’s the best situation for me to be successful. The position I play [receiver], the guy is leaving. So the position is up for grabs. I like the coaching staff. It just feels like home. So that’s basically what I based my decision off of.”
Velez was an all-region player as a wide receiver, cornerback and kick and punt returner for Adairsville, helping the Tigers make the playoffs in each of his last two seasons with a combined 17-6 record.
“He was pretty good, now,” Bishop said of Velez in high school. “He’s a little bit undersized, a lot like [current senior receiver, cornerback and returner] Marquel [Lane], but found a way to overcome the height and weight issue. He always had an unbelievable work ethic. He was one of those kids that, every day after school, if he didn’t have a practice of some sort, he was staying after doing speed drills, doing agilities, and throwing and catching the ball.”
After Adairsville, Velez went to Georgia State and redshirted a year before transferring.
“It was just a weird situation,” Velez said of his time at Georgia State. “I didn’t like the program as much, so I decided to go the JUCO route after my first year.”
After transferring to Scottsdale, Velez saw some time in the receiver rotation early in the season before taking over the starting role midway through his freshman year. He became one of Scottsdale’s top receivers in his sophomore year, catching 31 passes in 11 games for 398 yards and six touchdowns. He also was the team’s punt returner, taking two kickoffs back for 40 yards and returning 10 punts for 93 yards. He added 24 rushing yards on five carries.
Scottsdale went to the Valley of the Sun Bowl in each of Velez’s two seasons with the team. The team went 7-4 his sophomore season and defeated Central Lakes College-Brainerd in the bowl game his senior year.
“The first year, I didn’t start the first half of the season. I was in the rotation, but just kept working during the season. The second half, I earned a starting position. I did pretty well my first year,” Velez said. “My second year, .. I put up some good numbers. ... So it was a pretty good career out there.”
Looking forward to his career at Troy, Velez hopes to help improve the Alabama school that went 4-8 last season and 3-5 in the Sun Belt Conference.
“I just want to help the team win any way I can,” he said. “That’s the first goal. The second goal is to just work as hard as I can every single day, and whatever comes along with that. The NFL is the dream, so that’s what I’m going to keep working toward.”
Velez said he will have an opportunity to return kickoffs and punts like he did at Adairsville and Scottsdale.
“I don’t know where he’s at as far as Troy, but I always thought he could have a bright future as a returner,” Bishop said. “Outside of being a receiver, I always thought he had the potential to be a dynamic returner, be it kickoff or punt.”
Velez is already on the Troy campus and is taking classes while getting acclimated to the new school.
“Right now I’m a communications major. I’m looking to get my bachelor’s in communications, public relations, maybe minor in business management,” he said. “Campus is pretty good. It’s kind of different for me. I signed with Georgia State University. I went there out of high school for a year and then I moved out to Arizona. Those are two cities, so right now, it’s more of a college town. It’s kind of nice. It’s different. I’m getting used to it a little bit.”