A lot has changed in the El Paso sports landscape since Javier Loya was a standout football player at Burges High School nearly three decades ago.
But in some ways, things are still the same.
Players from El Paso are often overlooked when it comes to recruiting, and many aren't able to take advantage of opportunities offered by smaller schools to continue their playing careers and education.
But that's all changing thanks to the Greater El Paso Football Showcase Combine and Loya, a part-owner of the Houston Texans.
"This is our seventh year. It's a great event for student-athletes to perform and excel and earn a scholarship," said Loya.
Loya was not heavily recruited during his time at Burges, but he still found a way to continue playing football in the Ivy League at Columbia. He has since gone on to great success in the energy commodities marketplace and is now the Chairman and CEO of OTC Global Holdings. He also became the first Hispanic owner of an NFL team when he invested in the Houston Texans in 2002. But he often still thinks back to his days playing high school football in El Paso.
"I remember my younger brother and I, Mario and I, played at Columbia. And I remember us thinking, 'Man, there's guys we played against at Burges or guys we played against at Eastwood or Coronado, that they could play at the Ivy League level.' They just weren't given the opportunity," said Loya.
To make sure that didn't happen again, Loya helped bring a high school combine to El Paso. Modeled after a similar combine in Loya's adopted hometown of Houston, the Greater El Paso Football Showcase Combine brings in coaches and scouts from all over the country and invites them to take a closer look at players from El Paso.
Loya himself donates $20,000 per year to cover travel costs for schools interested in coming to scout players at the combine.
This year's combine takes place from noon to 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 15 at the SAC. It is open to all seniors - not just those invited to play in the Great El Paso Football Showcase all-star game the following day.
But the combine isn't just set up to promote those with the fastest time in the 40-yard dash or the highest vertical. Instead, the combine is designed to help players who excel both on and off the field find a college that's right for them.
"And I think the important thing that people need to know is that these aren't athletic scholarships," said Loya. "These are academic scholarships."
Coaches from the Division II, Division III, and NAIA levels often rely on players on academic scholarships. And one emerging place to find good students who can play a little football is El Paso.
"And I can tell you anecdotally by speaking to some of the coaches that come down here, the reason that they're down here is they're doing it for their own competitive reasons," said Loya. "They look at the roster and say, 'I got my butt kicked by these kids. Where are they from?' And it turns out they're from El Paso."