John Avila was born the eldest of seven children in Albuquerque Old Town to Torribio and Elena Avila. Growing up sharing; one bedroom, twelve hours of daily adobe making, pot of beans and potatoes made for a close hardworking childhood. At a young age the family moved to California for a chance at better education and opportunity to make a living without the children needing to work so much. John’s father, a past golden glove and fleet heavyweight boxing champion, made sure his kids were the best little league baseball players around because to him, it was the smart sport. In baseball the Avila kids would have a chance to play professionally without the injuries of box- ing, or football.
Unfortunately John and company fell in with a group of Samoans and football and may- hem ensued in their Wilmington neighborhood – thwarting Dad’s dreams of baseball glory after John’s first taste of football and well… blood. Returning to New Mexico, the rest of the 70’s was a mix of work and school with little opportunity for sports. Al- though Mr. Avila finally let John compete in football, enjoying it when John was able to play in the state playoffs as a sophomore. Dad passed away that year and the family sport changed from baseball to football, track and wrestling.
After doubling his weight since starting high school and making both the All District and All Star football teams, John entered college at 185 lbs. A dislocated shoulder slowed him down but he was finally able to start as a redshirt freshman defensive lineman after reckless play against 1984 NCAA National Champions Brigham Young. Work, school and helping raise his siblings kept John from the athletic field but his goal to enter USN Offi- cer’s Candidate School drew him to the gym. While recovering from a particularly oxy- gen deprived workout, luck would have it; John was spotted by two degenerate Aard- varks. On their sweep for Liberty Gym divorcee clientele, Hawkins and Pino slowed their slide into depravity long enough to invite John to the pitch to try a sport from England. “Come out, it will be great cross training”. But for his early confusion over the lack of cricket bats, in short order John was trying all disciplines from Back to Scrum Half until someone had the brilliant assessment that John was best suited to the Lock position.
Following a dismal summer of lifting the frontline off their feet John thought it best to return and play out his Lobo Football senior eligibility. The Lobos were no longer the top 10 defensive team they had been in the early 80’s, but John still came away averag- ing a sack per game and another shoulder that needed reconstruction. With rededicated discipline John prepared himself for the military, dropping from a 285 playing weight to 3% body fat and 4.5 forty speed. Unfortunately the Navy was more concerned about insurance costs than having a devoted killing machine – so yet another chance to re- group.
Right, rugby! John focused on being a mobile Prop for the Aardvarks in the late 80’s. The nineties were dedicated to keeping the team together by coaching, playing any po- sition and Aardvark firsts; first time playing in Lobo Stadium, first kilted sevens at the Celtic games and first six brothers playing at once. The last years of play for John were appreciated, even if mostly B side; especially when he was able to close out his last game playing with one of his 5 children in the lineup.