He admitted to being totally surprised with an early Christmas gift, for many reasons. But as David Guevara hangs out around the tree this week, he will smile the big smile, knowing that four years of hard work have paid off in the ultimate dividend.

The hard-charging EHS linebacker was accorded honorable mention on the Associated Press Sports Editors Class 5A All-State football team last week, joining an august body of athletes who can call themselves the best of the best in America’s premier football state.

The honor caught Guevara off guard because he’d only been second team All-District for 31-5A after the season. After making 160 tackles, blocking five kicks, and keying one of the Valley’s best defenses, No. 44 was nonetheless reconciling with being second team…then he heard the news.

 “I was really surprised, a lot of people we calling me and telling me about it…actually, Josh DeLuna’s mom did, and then I saw it on TV,” chuckled Guevara, a two-year starter who created havoc for Valley offenses with his strength, range, and explosive hitting ability. DeLuna is a senior-to-be LB at rival North. “I was excited about it, I guess this shows everyone what they missed, right?”

The All-District and All-State teams may focus on roughly the same objective, but they are different animals, with the former selected by coaches and the latter by media. Guevara noted that “what happened, happened,” as far as the 31-5A team picks; he has no hard feelings, preferring to say that the All-State bona fides will definitely come in handy as he shops for a college.

“I definitely want to keep on playing football,” said Guevara, whose older brother Marty was an All-District punter and tight end at EHS a few years back. “I am looking at Texas State, Sam Houston, and Kingsville. I may have to redshirt or something right off, but I hope to eventually get a chance to play.”

EHS coach Joey Caceres thinks his star ‘backer has what it takes to play at the next level, saying that Guevara has done everything the program asked of him, and then some.

“He worked his butt off every day and we’re proud of him,” said Caceres, who took the Bobcats to the playoffs for the first time since 2005 this fall and scored a playoff upset against Brownsville Hanna in bi-district. “He’s a great football player, someone who could have been awesome at fullback, tight end, a lot of positions. We needed him at middle linebacker and he had a great season.”

Guevara was at top form in the big games, registering 19 tackles against Pharr North, 14 against Sharyland, and 12 versus McAllen; all three of those teams went to the playoffs. He preserved the overtime win against P-SJ-A - a 33-32 comeback triumph which set the tone for the postseason run - with a blocked kick in OT.

He joins a select group of city kids who’ve made the All-State team since 2000, including a Bobcat, DB Glen Cowan (honorable mention) in 2004, and a series of Econ Jags like RB Ryan Richardson (second), DB Rigo Sanchez (first) and LB Juan Morales (HM) in 2003, plus LB Art Diaz (HM) in 2001. North has been represented in the decade as well, with WR Robert Perez and LB John De la Vina both making second team in 2001.

Guevara is playing hoops for EHS right now, but starting to turn his attention to college football. He has a bench press of 275 and a squat of over 400. He’s very competitive in the power clean, a lift that comes into play for linebackers as it enables them to push-attack a fullback or guard in the hole and shed the blocker to start thinking tackle.

Caceres says that along with being a devastating hitter, his All-Stater can move.

“He has deceiving quickness, before you know it, he’s there making the tackle,” said the coach of the 215-pound senior. “It says a lot about the kid that he made that team, and it’s also a plus for our program, because it shows what sort of things we can accomplish.”

He also mused about the local selection process, saying that often coaches want to stump for their kids to the exclusion of some others.

“That’s natural for coaches to want to talk about their guys and get them on the All-District team,” he explained. “We all do the same thing, and each coach wants all his own guys on there, that’s just the way it goes. The media try and be unbiased but it’s a tough job, because so there are so many outstanding athletes in the state of Texas.”

NOTES: The good news continued for EHS over the weekend, as senior defensive tackle Bryan Garza was selected to the All-Valley team, as a second-teamer. Econ’s 285-pound OT Pedro Ornelas was a first-team pick.