San Jose Ultras Honor Former Earthquake Jason Hernandez in his Emotional Return to San Jose
PHOTO: Lyndsay Radnedge, Center Line Soccer
Jason Hernandez has a special relationship with the San Jose Earthquakes, and particularly the San Jose Ultras. Hernandez was selected by the Quakes in the 2007 Expansion Draft, leading up to the team’s return to the Bay Area in 2008. From 2008-2014, the New York City native made 163 appearances for the Earthquakes and played an important role in rebuilding the franchise from it’s brief exit from San Jose in 2005.
Now playing for New York City FC, Hernandez made his first return to San Jose last Friday night at Avaya Stadium, and the experience for him was unlike any other. “It’s the most surreal experience I’ve had on the soccer field, to be honest with you,” Hernandez told reporters after the 0-0 draw. “A lot of my blood and sweat went into this franchise, and to see the stadium, to see the team and the supporters get a home they deserve, and to feel in a little way a part of that, was great.”
Hernandez was an instrumental part of the back line that led the Quakes to the Conference Finals in 2010 and to Supporters Shield glory in 2012. “In 2012 we gave him the ‘Heart of an Ultra’ award, a trophy that we awarded to only four other players. Jason was always a fighter, always gave 100% and that’s the type of player we appreciate the most,” said San Jose Ultras leader Dan Margarit. Margarit, along with hundreds of other Quakes fans, stands and sings in the southwest end of the stadium every game supporting the Earthquakes and creating a hostile environment for any visiting team.
“Honestly I didn’t expect all the encouragement and support that the home crowd showed me tonight. San Jose usually makes it pretty rough on guys coming in,” Hernandez continued after the game. “It was really a surreal experience and I have to thank them for that.” Hernandez, when introduced before the game, got a loud applause and a warm welcome from the Avaya Stadium crowd. The Ultras even revealed a banner in the middle of the game, saluting Jason for his hard work in his 7 years in San Jose.
“We talked the night before, but I didn’t tell him anything about the banner. I wanted to be a surprise,” Margarit said of their display, which they have only made for a select few. Frank Yallop, Jon Busch, and Joe Cannon were the only players to receive a display like this in recent history. “It was an emotional moment for everybody, especially when he came in front of our section at the end of the game to do our traditional ‘San-Jo-Se’ salute, that he has done so many times while he was at Buck Shaw.”
“That’s the closest I’ve been to crying on the field. It was really cool, I respect those guys a lot,” Hernandez said of the Ultras. “As a defender, your name doesn’t get called out a lot — especially not in a good way. So to have the supporters show me that appreciation was really cool.”
“Before he left to New York he contacted me because he wanted to hang out with the group one more time to thank us for the support. We had a great time, but we were saddened to lose such a strong character,” Margarit said. But the bond between Hernandez and San Jose’s leading supporters group goes beyond his play on the pitch. Chris Hacker, a member of the group, tragically passed away last year. “Jason was the only player who sent a bouquet of flowers, even though he was already in New York at that time, playing for his new team. Gestures like this mean a lot and will never be forgotten.”
“When it comes to players, we rather have hard working guys who care about this club, its supporters and this community, than some overpaid big name who is here for the paycheck only,” Margarit continued. All professional players receive paychecks. But only a select few receive, in addition to their paychecks, the eternal respect of the supporters and become part of the club history. Jason Hernandez is one of those and we will always welcome him just like we did at the last game.”
— JD McCall (@JDMcCall1) August 7, 2016
Famous for throwing his kit up into the stands after games, Hernandez did the same last Friday, leaving a young fan with the memory of a lifetime.
“We always appreciated the players and staff members who had the same mentality like us: Those who always give 100% for this club, who wear our colors with pride, who honor and stay loyal to the crest, and who willing to make sacrifices for this club,” Margarit continued. He went on to say that the group had a similar relationship with former Quakes GM Johnny Moore, former head coach Frank Yallop, former players Troy Dayak, Alan Gordon, Jon Busch, and Joe Cannon. “From the current team, we have a good relationship with Clarence Goodson, David Bingham and, of course, Wondo.”
Hernandez was not only a part of the organization, but also an active member of the community, which is something that sports fans universally value.