Estrada honored as Humanitarian of the Year

The California native has grown into his role as a professional athlete but never forgot where he came from.

Growing up in Salinas, California, David Estrada didn’t have much opportunity to see professional athletes participate in the community.

That is one reason he makes a point to involve himself so much in the Seattle community and back home in Salinas during the off-season.

“Just having a professional team in my city would have been amazing,” Estrada said. “One of the things I try to do when I go home is talk to my high school and my middle school. It’s a great honor to be looked up to by all the kids. Anytime I get a chance to get out there and speak to the kids, I’m more than happy to do it.”

Estrada was recognized on Sunday as the Sounders FC 2012 Humanitarian of the Year, adding to his breakout season that saw him score five goals in MLS play, including a hat trick in the season opener against Toronto FC before he was forced to sit out with a broken foot. He also added a goal in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals against Santos Laguna.

Estrada made more than 30 appearances in the community and played an integral role in one-on-one outreach to the Hispanic community.

He also represented the team at three of four “United We Serve” events, striking a prominent presence at the side-by-side player and fan volunteer program dedicated to grassroots community service projects.

Usually a man of few words in front of a lot of people, Estrada made a home for himself at the various community functions.

“I want to meet the fans and know what they’re all about. They take time out of their busy schedule to hang out with us, so it’s the least we could do to try and pay it back,” he said. “Every single event is special. Cleaning up the streets of White Center with the youth and playing dodgeball after that – you kind of miss that sometimes, being a kid. That’s what I find most rewarding – when I’m able to go out and play with the kids.”

Estrada follows in the great footsteps of previous Sounders Humanitarians of the Year, Taylor Graham (2009) and James Riley (2010 and 2011). Estrada even credited Riley with setting the good example for young players to follow.

“It means a lot,” Estrada said. “This organization, everything they do off the field, to be singled out as the Humanitarian of the Year for this team means so much to me.”

Estrada is in his third MLS season after being drafted in the first round, 11th overall, by the Sounders in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. Before appearing in 17 matches this season, 12 as a starter, Estrada had played in just six MLS matches, making two starts in his first two seasons.

He will be eligible for the league MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Year.