J.P. Segura-Queijeiro: The pride of Mexico City

J.P. Segura-Queijeiro breaks a couple tackles on a rush in the Battle of the Bell vs. Golden West on Sept. 5.

Raised in Vista Hermosa, a neighborhood in the suburbs of Mexico City, José Pablo (J.P.) Segura-Queijeiro began playing gridiron football at just 9 years old.

Following his freshman season at Orange Coast College, Segura was named Second Team All-Metro League by the league’s coaches this year, and is now one of Pirates’ premier offensive football players — but his breakout freshman season would come as no surprise given the long line of athletes in the running back’s family.

“Four of the five brothers in my dad’s family played football in Mexico,” Segura said. “On my mom’s side, my great grandpa was the first Mexican to cross La Manche. All of them boxed. They played tennis. They did a bunch.”

Segura has yet to swim across the English Channel, but so far his most apparent talent is running with a football in hand. In 2021, the 21-year old led OCC in rushing with 549 yards on 103 carries, including four touchdowns.

“I always felt like I was a little overlooked because I’m 5’6”,” Segura said in an interview with Sports Sunday on 101.5 FM KOCI. “Every time I get the ball, I’m trying to prove myself. I’m trying to show the defense that I am more than my height, [and] more than my weight.”

Back in Mexico City, Segura was on a local high school football program affiliated with Tecnológico De Monterrey, one of the biggest educational institutions in the country. In Segura's junior year, the Borregos won the national championship, in a game where he ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns.

Segura also shared how much he thought American football has expanded in Mexico, especially since he started playing the sport.

“Football is growing a lot in Mexico,” Segura said. “Not just the people that are starting to play it, but people that are watching.”

In 2015, Mexican investors came together to revitalize the sport in their home country with the founding of la Liga de Fútbol Americano Profesional(LFA). The LFA has continued to expand since its conception, and as of today, American football is the fourth-most popular sport in Mexico.

After developing his game in Mexico, Segura aspired to play football in the U.S. In his senior year of high school, Segura established contact with some family in Iowa, and anticipated playing internationally for a year.

“Four hours before I got on the plane [to Iowa], I was told that I was not going to be able to play because I was considered ineligible,” Segura said.

In an unfortunate turn of events, Segura’s visa status prevented him from playing one last year of high school football, and consequently, he lost the opportunity to build his highlight reel and establish any contact with university teams.

Despite being held out of athletics in Iowa, Segura received the Xavier High School Pride Award after being nominated by his teammates who recognized the work he put in, regardless of his ineligibility.

“I didn't attract a lot of coaches and any type of way [after my ineligibility], so I talked to this agency called NCSA,” Segura said. “They guided me through the process of what I should do, and recommended a junior college. The only ones that I had luck with responding to my calls or emails were Glendale and OCC, but the moment that I arrived at OCC, something just clicked. I loved the facilities, I loved the campus, and I felt like the team was good.”

Segura found where he wanted to play football next, but he faced even more adversity in his first year as a Pirate.

“Summer training was hard at OCC — really hard. Everyone was sore all the time,” Segura said. “We were all in pain, so it was really heartbreaking to have my leg broken on the first kickoff of the season after all the work that I had put in.”

Playing on defensive special teams in the 2019 fall season opener, Segura was caught up in a wedge block by two opposing players, when he then fell and snapped his fibula. The injury required surgery, and the running back was out for the year. Fortunately for Segura, unexpected circumstances granted him more long-term opportunity.

“It was a year and a few months before my leg felt 100%,” Segura said. “The pandemic helped a lot in that I had plenty of time to heal and get back onto the field. It was a blessing in disguise for me.”

OCC did not have a 2020 football season, so all of the Pirates players received an extra year of athletic eligibility, but more importantly for Segura, he was also able to physically prepare himself for the return of fall sports in 2021.

It took nearly two years, but Segura finally had his breakout game at OCC, rushing for 109 yards, scoring a touchdown and pulling away for a game-high 50-yard run in a 29-22 loss to Santa Monica. Segura's performance in the Pirates’ second game of the 2021 fall season solidified the freshman as the number one option in the backfield for the rest of the year.

According to Segura, his post game interview of that game caught the attention of his former coach in Mexico City, and after many interactions from supporters on Twitter, he was the topic of discussion for a couple local sports news networks from his hometown.

Segura went on to lead OCC skill players in total yards, yards per game and rushing touchdowns. He had the longest rush of the year with a 72-yard carry, while never once fumbling the ball in 10 games. The product out of Mexico City accomplished all of the above while still splitting snaps with two other running backs.

The Pirates finished 3-7 overall last year, but Segura ensured that there are better days ahead for OCC football, who have not had a winning season since 2015 (7-4).

“The expectations are high for next year,” he said. “We understand what we want to accomplish, and it should be fun."

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