Gridiron hero returns home a Veteran

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By Scott Akanewich

Gio Magallon is best known around Liberty Hill for kicking a game-winning field goal in the Panthers’ Class 4A state championship game victory in 2006, but what he did upon leaving town after graduation is more noteworthy.

Since his departure, Magallon has served a 13-year career in the U.S. Navy and is returning home to be the guest speaker at the Liberty Hill Veterans Day event at Veterans Memorial Park at 10 a.m. on Nov. 11.

According to Magallon, the opportunity to return with his current status is something he never imagined.

“It’s humbling to be able to honor those who have served this great nation,” said Magallon. “When I left home as an 18-year-old kid, I never imagined coming back to speak at such an event.”

Over the course of his career, Magallon has served in many different roles in Naval Special Warfare, deploying to Iraq as a heavy weapons gunner and radio communicator during Operation Iraqi Freedom and has since risen to the rank of Chief Petty Officer.

Magallon has been back to Liberty Hill on occasion during the course of his military career, so he’s already witnessed firsthand how much the town has changed, he said.

“When I do get the opportunity to visit, I drive through town to see the changes,” he said. “Liberty Hill has come a long way in the last 13 years and I’m looking forward to seeing how it continues to develop in the future.”  

However, despite its growth, Liberty Hill still remains the same place where he was grounded with the morals and values that have served him well over the years since and he never forgets the principles he learned all those years ago from not only growing up here, but being a member of the Panthers’ football program, he said.

“The lessons I learned in this small town have helped me through my career,” he said. “My first exposure to discipline, teamwork and camaraderie began in the weight room and on the gym floor during football offseason.”

As for any local youth his appearance may inspire, Magallon enthusiastically accepts that aspect of his job description.

“I gladly embrace the responsibility of being a role model,” said Magallon. “I had success early on in my career because of the great leaders and mentors that invested time in me. It’s my duty to leave the Armed Forces better than when I entered and that begins with the next generation of sailors, soldiers, Marines and airmen.”

As for the message he would deliver to them, he believes it’s beneficial to step out of one’s comfort zone in order to conquer obstacles on the way to success, he said. 

“My advice is to never shy away from discomfort,” said Magallon. “I’ve learned the most valuable lessons by stepping into challenges.”

Magallon said he’s excited for the opportunity to be a part of his hometown’s Veterans Day celebration.

“I’m looking forward to see a town come together in patriotism to honor the heroic men and women that sacrificed on our behalf,” he said. “I will also enjoy listening to the war stories of our veterans that fought before me and left behind a legacy of courage and pride.”

As for his famous kick, Magallon is humble about the part he played in the Panthers’ championship season his senior year – with a little help from others, he said. 

“When I visit my mother’s home, I see the newspaper clippings of that game and remember what an amazing experience that was,” said Magallon. “Although it was a great moment in the game, I was one of 11 players on the field for that play and I did my job just like everyone else did throughout the entire game. As far as people nowadays talking about the game, I’m more often reminded I was just the kicker.”

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