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A Tribute to the 1984 East L.A. Pop-Warner Cougars




I played 4 years of Pop-Warner football and this was my last season before moving on to high school. It was such a great team!  Talk about playing with heart, grit and attitude.  Being the underdogs in several games during the regular season, were able come out on top, and made the playoffs – I believe we were a wildcard team. I don’t know about today, but back then, for an East L.A. Pop-Warner Football team to make it to the playoffs, it was a big deal!

However, our season ended with a HUGE brawl on the football field (even the parents were fighting in the stands) in the semi-finals of the playoffs against the Huntington Park team, and we lost the game.

Funny thing is…

…even though we lost, it didn’t matter…we didn’t care!

We learned something very important that day!

We learned that it wasn’t only about winning.  It was about giving it your all, everything you’ve got and then some, about overcoming adversity, and not giving up, kicking ass, having courage, and standing side by side protecting the man next to you while knowing that the man next to you had your back too.


…that’s what they called us…men!

East L.A. Cougars Pop-Warner Football

1984 East L.A. Cougars (I’m #89)

So, even though we lost the game, we immediately started celebrating on the field, and, at that moment, it’s all that mattered to us! Our chant went on and on and on, “EAST L.A. NUMBER ONE! EAST L.A. NUMBER ONE! EAST L.A. NUMBER ONE!”

We knew that we had gone far, had achieved something great, and that we had beaten the odds. We knew that we had done the impossible.  By the age of 13, and thanks to East L.A. Pop-Warner Football, I had learned important life lessons and values that I have carried with me throughout my lifetime…desire, commitment, courage, discipline, thoughtfulness, love, empathy, kindness, respect, tenacity, camaraderie, friendship, honor, value, how to be a dreamer and go after my dreams, how not to be a quitter in life, and more…

Our chant went on and on and on, “EAST L.A. NUMBER ONE! EAST L.A. NUMBER ONE! EAST L.A. NUMBER ONE!”  Man, I love this team!!

East L.A. Cougars Pop-Warner Football

East L.A. Wildcats – Age 11


I will forever remember the men who made a difference in my life, my coaches, Coach Cota, Fierro, Cisneros, Jackie …Now, I understand why we worked so hard, why they always used to send us to the backstop and back, why we did so many up-downs, push-ups and leg-lifts…

…it was for the glory, the greatness…the DREAM!

Now, I know why they pushed us so hard and just couldn’t bare to see us lose. I remember Coach Cota yelling from the sidelines, “NO SE DEJEN! NO SE DEJEN!!” <DON’T – GIVE – UP!>.  And then, seeing him cry when we did lose, a mountain of a man, with a thick, black mustache, whimpering in tears.  He would say, “Men, I wish I could do it for you but I can’t! You just don’t know how great you can be!”

Those words have rung in my ear my entire life!!

To this day, when things get difficult for me, I still hear their voices yelling from the sidelines…DON’T GIVE UP!  And, the fire comes back, the desire, the courage, the dreamer…it all comes back every day of my life, like it did when we were kids getting ready for battle on the gridiron…the glory, the greatness…the dream!

East L.A. Cougars Pop-Warner Football

East L.A. Bobcats – Age 12



The story of East L.A. Pop-Warner and how my coaches have made a difference in my life, I’ve told many, many times to my students. You see, like my coaches, I’ve been a “mentor of life” to many, as they were to me.  The same values that where instilled in me through East L.A Pop-Warner Football, I have shared with many economically disadvantaged kids, teens, their families and many others, adults inclued.  I was a school teacher in Las Vegas for 16 years, head instructor of Kodokan Judo at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for 8 years, I founded and ran by myself, a Youth Outreach Program called Rising Sun Judo Club of Las Vegas for 12 years, and I’ve coached several local, state and national champions.

After play 3 years on the varsity team at Garfield High School, played 2 more years at Rio Hondo College, and then at UNLV.  However, while at UNLV, I fell in love with the Olympic martial art of Judo. I went on to become a 10-Time Nevada State Judo Champion, 2-time California State Champion, Arizona State Champion once, placed 4th out of 32 countries at the 2001 World Masters Judo Championships, became the USA Judo National Champion in 2003 in two weight classes, and I’ve also had great success in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Submission Wrestling, Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts as well.

East L.A. Cougars Pop Warner Football

Garfield High Bulldogs – Age 18

However, my attempts at greatness have not been easy! 

I’ve been through many ups and downs, victories at the highest levels, and I’ve also fallen on my ass, really hard, many times before and have found myself rock bottom!  But, it has been through the teachings of these great men, my coaches, Cota, Fierro, Cisneros, Jackie and also others mentors I’ve had along the way, who’s names I can not remember, that I’ve been able to keep on pushing forward, fall down seven times and get up 8, etc.  East L.A. Pop-Warner Football, instilled in me the strength, courage and values that are needed to overcome adversity…and this is what I teach to my students and others, just as it was taught to me.

As Napoleon Hill once said, “The only true failure is the one that you accept in your own mind,” and this is what was taught to me from day one as a Wildcat, then as a Bobcat, and as a Cougar….


You see, to be successful in life, you must have a higher purpose…

…something bigger than yourself!

It is what will allow you to overcome adversity and keep you from giving up when on brink of failure. With a higher purpose you’ll be able to apply yourself with heart and soul, and push through any obstacles that my get in your way, and eventually, you’ll come out on top, victorious!

This idea of a higher purpose is a “mission of greatness” and it was instilled in me by my “Mentors of Life” from East L.A. Pop-Warner Football right from the start.  The expectations were set high right from the beginning!  Their memory, their teachings, their legacy is now living through me! Their honor is my honor, and it is my duty to pass it on to my disciples, and I’ll keep on doing so until the day that I die…

This is how you change the world…this is how you make this planet a better place to live, by giving yourself 100% to those who need guidance in life, you pass on to others your love, your commitment, your passion, our caring. And, on day they will become leaders, and pass on YOUR teachings to many others also.

East L.A. Cougars Pop-Warner Football

Rio Hondo College Football – Age 19



I’ve spent my entire life striving for it, attempting to find that greatness that my coaches were so passionate about.  Coach Cota’s last words to me were, “You have what it takes, don’t waste it.  You can go all the way!”  It’s a memory that I will take with me into the next lifetime! REMEMBER THE COUGARS! REMEMBER THE COUGARS!! “EAST L.A. NUMBER ONE!”

That’s how I remember it…I will forever be grateful to my coaches and the organization that made all the difference in my life, and has served as the foundation, that allows me to make a difference in the life of others…East L.A. Pop-Warner Football.

…by the way, I’m still in search of that glory.  I’m still a dreamer.  I’m still in search of greatness…and I will forever be a Cougar!





You see, life is a game, and you have winners and you have losers…

…play to win!

…play your best!

…don’t ever forget where you came from!

…and always “remember and honor” those who helped you along the way!

Yours in Mastery,

Carlos Fletes Jr.

P.S. – To my East L.A. Pop-Warner coaches, if you are reading this, from the bottom of my heart – thank you!  You truly made a difference!

East L.A. Cougars Pop-Warner Football

UNLV Rebels – Age 21



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