Former West Michigan star athlete to coach in Central American Bowl

West Michigan athlete goes to the Central America Bowl

HOLLAND, MICH. - This Sunday while all eyes are on the Super Bowl, a few West Michigan people will have their eyes fixed on a different bowl, one that's 3,000 miles away.

AJ Westendorp may sound like a familiar name. He made Holland Christian High School State Champions in 2008 and took his talents to Central Michigan after that. But after college, he hung up his cleats, only to find out the sport wasn't through with him just yet.

"My wife and I left in October 2015 to go to Guatemala to figure out what it meant to serve the poor down there," Westendorp said. 

"About my third or fourth week in Guatemala there was a guy wearing a Green Bay Packer jersey, so naturally the conversation started. He had been part of this kind of rec league/professional football team and they ended up asking me to be their coach."

Two years later the rest was history. Westendorp was back in the game but in a new position.

"The biggest joy for me in coaching football in Guatemala was walking with those guys seeing those stories grow," he said. 

Westendorp taught the Toros football team for two years and is now heading to the Central American Bowl to head coach the Guatemalan All-Star team. For Central America, it's the biggest stage for football. 

"They're all really excited to fight for their country," he added.  "It's got an Olympic/World Cup sort of feel in that way, so it's pretty special." 

Something special, that can only be described as fateful. 

"God just kind of spoiled me on this one," Westendorp said. "I went down expecting some really hard things from a really poor country and got a lot of that, but the football team I coach down there, they became my joy." 

"You can build a house, you can give some money, rarely is it that you can use your gift to serve a community." 

Westendorp isn't going down alone; he's taking former teammate and current Holland Christian Coach, Alex Baker. Once the tournament is done Westendorp will be back in West Michigan. He and his wife are looking for ways to serve area communities. 

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