When the wall has nothing to do with football—Proposition 187, for example, or his family's fight for acceptance—Roque draws less on his physical strength than on his intellect and his passion. In October he joined President Clinton on the podium at a campaign rally in Tempe and told a boisterous crowd how his father had struggled nearly 20 years for U.S. citizenship and finally grasped "the sword of power," his right to vote as an American.
This fall, while Roque waited to see what his last season of football eligibility held, he took graduate courses in education with an eye toward earning his teaching certificate. "I'll need to find an enlightened principal who will let me teach Latin American history and entwine it with U.S. history," he says. He also sees opportunities in politics, figuring that his ability to speak and think in both Spanish and English could prove useful. "I might become a congressman," he says.
Meanwhile Roque seizes the opportunities afforded to football stars. He visits schools. He counsels children to avoid drugs. He plays the role model. "He's a great example to his community," says Murphy, the man at Roque's right shoulder when Arizona State has the ball. "Juan can inspire minority kids to go to college—and to succeed when they get there. I'm really proud of him."
There is, of course, some football yet to be played. When Arizona State meets Ohio State on New Year's Day, Roque will line up the majority of the time against the Buckeyes' Mike Vrabel, the Big Ten defensive lineman of the year. But inevitably Roque will be compared with Ohio State offensive tackle Orlando Pace, a two-time winner of the Lombardi Award, which goes to the country's top lineman. "I can't get caught up in the mystique of the Rose Bowl," Roque responds. "I've got a job to do."