By Kyle Prudhomme
“I remember this one time when he was in high school. There was a blizzard so kids didn’t have school. There’s no one in the gym, it’s pitch black inside and in walks Luis, covered with snow but ready to get his work in,” recalled Jeremy Frisch, owner of Achieved Performance Training in Clinton.
Luis Feliz, senior linebacker for Fitchburg State, wouldn’t be stopped by the snow, walking a few miles from his home to the training facility. He wouldn’t be stopped by many obstacles before being invited for the 7th annual D3 Senior Classic, a national Division III all-star game scheduled for Dec. 19 in Myrtle Beach, SC.
Obstacles seemed to be something that Feliz had welcomed. When he first started at Fitchburg State University, the team was on the decline and he wasn’t known yet as a feared force in the middle of the field on defense. He moved from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to the U.S at the age of 9 and found himself facing a cultural barrier, a new language, and new surroundings.
“It was crazy, I didn’t speak the language and didn’t really know what was going on, but I had a lot more opportunities here and I was with my mother,” said Feliz, playing down the difficulty.
He began to find comfort in the game of football, first playing in the neighborhood streets before strapping on football pads for the first time in the eighth grade.
When he entered high school he encountered a great opportunity for his football career, in the form of a relationship with Jeremy Frisch, a record-holding wide receiver at Worcester State University and owner of a high-performance training facility in Feliz’ hometown.
“He was very excited to be here and train with me,” said Frisch. “You gotta realize, we grow up in America where football is important; I knew since I was 4 or 5 what an interception was. Luis didn’t know that growing up in the Dominican until he got to the States. He had to learn a game five or six years after most kids figured it out.”
Despite the steep learning curve, Feliz progressed quickly within his sport, winning back-to-back championships in high school while earning all-conference accolades at Clinton High School playing defensive end and fullback before eventually coming to Fitchburg State University.
His on-field abilities were parallel to the work he put in during the off-season months.
“I would go four to five times a week and spend two hours to three hours in their [Achieved Performance Facility] and if I didn’t show up Jeremy would text me telling me to make sure I got my butt down there,” said Feliz.
During the week Feliz, accompanied with a small group ranging from eighth graders to college athletes, were in the weight room working with Frisch. Two nights a week the group was on the football field working on speed development drills. Other days they would work on flexibility. But no matter what, during the off-season Feliz was getting stronger, perfecting his craft.
“A kid like Luis being there was great. The younger kids looked up to him because they know what he’s done and he’s a great role model for them,” said Frisch. “It’s awesome from a coaching perspective; I absolutely love it.”
Hard work characterized Feliz’ career at Fitchburg State. He didn’t even come here to play defense, but instead as a running back before transitioning to the defensive side for his sophomore season in the Green and Gold.
Since the move to defense Feliz has stood out as one of the premier Division III linebackers in New England tallying 220 tackles and 12 sacks over a span of three seasons as linebacker; this past season, which he said he dedicated to his mother, was his best in the Green and Gold stopping 89 ball carriers and notching five sacks on the top-ranked defense in the MASCAC conference.
“It dates back to the off-season. I saw him working out every day busting his hump. You could see it in his eyes that he wanted this season,” said Andrew Holfinger, defensive coach for Fitchburg State.
Feliz has been gaining impressive accolades since the season’s end, first being nominated to the D3 Senior Classic, an event where student-athletes can gain the attention of professional scouts as well as an excellent all-around experience.
Following that nomination he gained MASCAC All-Conference First-Team recognition and was selected to participate in the 21st annual USA College Football Bowl after being named to the New England Writers D-II/D-III All-Star team.
Feliz said he liked football because “you find out who you are playing football, you have to overcome adversity,”.
It’s possible football has showed Feliz how hard to work in order to achieve his dreams.