For the Dynamo's newest, youngest player, just signing a professional contract at the age of 18 was not enough of a gift for his grandfather. No, Francisco Navas went one step further and put his grandfather's last name, Cobo, on the orange Dynamo jersey in honor of the man who shared his dream of soccer.
"My grandpa ... is the most important part of my heart," Navas Cobo said. "He's the best for me, and I want to give him happiness from now on and thank him for all his hard work all these years. For all the effort and all the things he has done for me and all the things he taught me, I decided to put Cobo, his last name, into my jersey to honor him."
Sinecio Cobo, who helped raise Francisco for so many years in Cali, Colombia, was on hand Tuesday to see his grandson, who only turned 18 in November, sign a professional contract and hold up a professional jersey for the first time.
The eldest Cobo was just part of the family contingent on hand for Francisco Navas Cobo's big day. In fact, his extended family - including aunts Debora Cobo and Claudia P. Cobo - has been there in Houston from the start. From tryouts for the Dynamo Academy to his first day training with the Dynamo first team to the preseason tournament in Orlando where he cemented his roster spot. It is just part of a significant support network as Navas makes the sizable transition to the professional level.
"These are the first steps on a long road, hopefully, for him," Dynamo Director of Youth Development James Clarkson said. "There are ups and downs, and it's going to be difficult, but with the support he has from his family, us in the Academy, and the Dynamo organization, he'll be able to deal with those setbacks - because there will be setbacks - and he's going to learn there's more to being a professional soccer player than just skill."
Navas Cobo has definitely begun to pick up on those differences, identified as a quick learner by head coach Dominic Kinnear.
"One thing we wanted to see was his ability to learn, which he did," Kinnear said, having earlier mentioned Navas Cobo's improvement in defensive work rate and positioning. "He figures out the game pretty well. It's a long way away before he's a regular in our team, but the decision for us to give him the chance - it was easy."
Easy for the Dynamo coaching staff, perhaps, but while Navas Cobo was warned that the hard work is still to come, Tuesday was a celebration of all the hard work that had come before. Sacrifices from his family, moves back and forth between Houston and Cali, long hours spent playing and practicing, beginning preseason with a broken arm. All this hard work allowed Navas Cobo to take that extra step and sign for the Dynamo first team, honoring his grandfather in the process.
"I want to thank my family, my aunt, my grandfather, and my mom, who's not here, but I know she's supporting me," Navas Cobo said. "I want to thank all the Houston Dynamo fans and all the people in here supporting me. It's a dream come true."
With this dream accomplished, Navas Cobo will now try to go one step further on the field, carrying his grandfather's name to glory.