SAN ANTONIO- Israel Sanchez is a film producer, an actor, and a man who always roots for the underdog. Sanchez was recently named one of Texas Monthly's Modern Hispanic Gentlemen for his career achievements and his positive work in the San Antonio community. The award, sponsored by Ketel One recognized his dedication to individuals and local organizations like Gridiron Heroes, that might not usually find success without community awareness. "San Antonio is the biggest small town I know of," Sanchez said. "I love that people are so friendly here, our food is amazing, and that so many different cultures can come together."
Born in Seguin and raised in Uvalde, Sanchez moved to San Antonio shortly before leaving for LA to pursue his love for film in 1997. "After college I caught the acting bug and I moved to LA," Sanchez said. " That's where I realized that producing is a lot more fun and exciting for me."
He returned to San Antonio to work on national commercials in 1999, and stayed on as a producer for film and TV, although he still travels to LA for business each year. He began working with the non-profit Gridiron Heroes in 2008, after meeting son and father Chris and Eddie Canales at the Dallas Cowboys training camp. Eddie Canales founded Gridiron Heroes in 2003 to assist individuals like his son Chris, who sustained spinal cord injuries related to high school football. Chris, who became a paraplegic during his senior year of high school football has since traveled across the country with his father to advocate for positive change in the football community and safety awareness.
"I began hitting the road with Gridiron to help the Texas and football communities," Sanchez said. " Somewhere along the way, it changed from walking with strangers to helping family."
In 2011, his passions for film and community involvement met up when he produced a documentary on Gridiron Heroes, narrated by actor Taylor Kitsch, who formerly starred on Friday Night Lights, a TV series based on high school football in Texas. The documentary chronicles Chris Canales' strength and love for the game, despite his life-changing injury. The film also features football greats like Mike Ditka and Jerry Jones. The film has already won several documentary awards, and has helped football community efforts to address safety issues and provide resources to those who have experienced high school football related injuries.
Always the gentleman, Sanchez insisted the award was a validation for the organizations he helps. "I'm not in the spotlight," Sanchez said. " But I'm thankful and grateful that the non-profits are getting recognized."
Sanchez's reception for Texas Monthly's Modern Hispanic Gentlemen was held Tuesday, Nov. 19 at the Coco Chocolate Lounge and Bistro. Benefits from the Ketel One sponsored reception were donated to the Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Injury Foundation.
Click here to view the trailer for the Gridiron Heroes documentary.
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