HANOVER TOWNSHIP -- A former high school football star from Wilkes-Barre who just signed with the Denver Broncos is back home, hoping to inspire young athletes to follow in his footsteps.
Shakir Soto, a former GAR defensive lineman, made a visit with the Hanover Area football program Thursday evening.
“This past Saturday I got the call from Denver Broncos, so I'll be headed to Denver in a week, excited,” Shakir Soto told the group of young football players who gathered on the bleachers at the Hanover Area Football Stadium.
To look at Soto, you'd never know that just last weekend, the Wilkes-Barre native signed with an NFL team. Soto was relaxed and even humble as he sat down with the young athletes.
“It's just a mindset. You have to be hungry enough to do what you want to do, man,” said Soto.
The decorated former football player at GAR Memorial High School in Wilkes-Barre, Soto managed an astonishing 52 sacks while playing as a defense lineman, even becoming a member of the 2012 Super 16 Dream Team.
He started as a true freshman in 2013 for Pitt, playing for the university through his college career. And just last Saturday, the Denver Broncos signed him as an undrafted free agent. Now, he's back in Luzerne County, telling youngsters if you aim for success, you can get it.
“I've gone to a few elementary schools in the past week since I've been home and I tell kids all the time if you have any questions or anything like that follow me on social media,” said Soto. “Kids telling me I'm like their biggest motivation.”
“It's awesome. I used to work out with Shakir and he's a great guy and I'm happy he's come back to talk to the team,” said Hanover Area sophomore Justin Kopko.
“Anytime you can have somebody that's accomplished what he has come and talk to the guys, motivate our guys, inspire them, we want to take that opportunity to do that,” said Hanover Area head coach Michael McCree.
“When the kids see someone come back or see the local guy make it, I think that gives them hope, 'Hey, maybe that could me someday,'” said Hanover Area assistant coach Bob Stelma.
And despite the known rivalry between GAR and Hanover Area, Soto was more than happy to accept the gift of a Hanover Area Football T-shirt.
“You can blur out my face,” laughed Soto to the camera.
Next week, Soto heads to Denver to being training with the Broncos.