EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 5, 2012

Super Bowl Monday for Lawrence native

By Bill Burt

Super Bowl Monday will be the biggest sports day of the year for U.S. Army Sergeant Major Jose Velasquez.

That's right, Super Bowl Monday.

Kickoff at the bar across the street from the Yongsan Army Base in Seoul, South Korea, will be at about 8:30 a.m. Velasquez will be wearing his dark blue Wes Welker No. 83 jersey for the big event.

"It's a little different, being in the morning, but it doesn't matter. I'm used to watching big games from back home in the morning," said Velasquez, a senior public affairs officer on the base. "I've been in the Army 21 years. I've been around the world a million times. When the Patriots were horrible, they were still my team. I really appreciate this."

Velasquez's story is an interesting one. He grew up in an apartment on 52 Willow St. in Lawrence.

"My parents split when I was about three and my mother (Agripina Velasquez) brought me up," he said. "I was a single child so it was just myself and her. It was pretty tough. She worked in factories whole life. Her last job was at a shoe factory in Haverhill. I owe everything to her. She instilled a lot of values in me."

Velasquez wasn't a star athlete at Lawrence High, where he graduated in 1988. He played football freshman and sophomore year before joining the band.

"I loved sports, but I just wasn't tall enough," said Velasquez.

After joining the Army in 1990, he met his wife, Velgica, in Panama. They have two sons, Jose III (18) and Nathan (14). While his wife and sons live in Virginia, they are rabid Patriots fans.

"Honestly, my wife might be a bigger fan than I am," he said. "She is a diehard fan. So are my boys. It's tough being away from them, especially when you want to share events like this. Unfortunately, it's part of my job."

Velasquez has his own blog, "Being," where he likes to write positive messages.

He wrote a passage about the game today, titled "Oh God, If You'll Only Let The Patriots Win ... "

"It's a way to express myself. I look at myself as a very positive person," said Velasquez. "I like to focus on the good things about life."

And for him, one of those good things, he hopes and prays, happens tonight. Or in his case, Monday morning.

Velasquez might not be the biggest Patriots fan in America, but there is little doubt who is the biggest in South Korea.

"It's me," said Velasquez. "In Korea, I'm the biggest."