Former Florida WR Carlos Alvarez featured in ESPN documentary
A documentary on former University of Florida receiver Carlos Alvarez, one of the first college athletes to mix playing and protests, makes its debut next week.
Produced by ESPN Films as part of its SEC Storied collection, "The All-American Cuban Comet" will premiere on Tuesday, October 27, at 8:30 p.m., on the SEC Network.
Alvarez, 70, burst on the scene during the 1969 season when he and fellow "Super Soph" John Reaves became the most dangerous passing duo in the Southeastern Conference. They helped lead the upstart Gators to a 9-1-1 record and victory over Tennessee in the Gator Bowl.
"Carlos Alvarez shook up college football. It was just bombs away and, man, where did this come from?" asks Steve Spurrier, the former Gators coach who, 3 years before Alvarez burst on the scene, won the Heisman Trophy as Florida's quarterback.
But Alvarez was more than a football player. At a time when the protests against the Vietnam War and racial issues raked college campuses, the Cuban immigrant and future attorney participated in protests on the Gainesville campus while a student at UF. He actively supported the integration of Florida’s football team and was a founding member of one of the country’s first student-athlete unions.
"I think that's the trouble with a lot of people today. They don't get involved," says the young Alvarez, shown in a black and white video in the documentary.
Alvarez, who in 2011 became the first foreign-born Hispanic-American to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, opens the film while walking onto Florida Field.
"Being at Florida Field has always brought out the adrenaline in me," Alvarez said.
Over the course of three seasons, the former North Miami Senior High School standout had 172 receptions for 2,563 yards and 19 touchdowns. The man known as the Cuban Comet still holds school records for receptions in a single game (15), in a single season (88) and career receiving yards (2,563).
Decorated filmmakers Gaspar González and Castor Fernandez directed and produced the film with equal emphasis on Alvarez's playing career and campus activism, pointing to the current atmosphere of sports figures being involved in the Black Lives Matter movement and noting that was rare even in the turbulent '60s.
“One of the things that was most exciting to us about Carlos’s story was that the fights he waged 50 years ago are completely relevant to the current moment,” González said. “Carlos understood the connection between civil rights and athletes’ rights. If you think of that generation of the 1960s, the athletes who fused sports with social consciousness, Carlos Alvarez is right there. He deserves to be remembered for that, in addition to being one of the great receivers in college football history.”