EDINBURG — Mikey Garcia was aware of what he was getting himself into. Mission Veterans coach David Gilpin let Garcia know during spring practice about what his role would look like for the 2017 season.

Two 1,000-yard wide receivers graduated after the 2016 season which meant Garcia wouldn’t simply be one of the top receiving targets on the team. He was expected to be the top receiving target in the Patriots’ high-powered offense.

After 78 catches, 1,364 receiving yards and 12 touchdown receptions, Garcia wasn’t only the Patriots’ best but he was the Valley’s best. For his achievements, the sophomore was selected as The Monitor’s All-Area Newcomer of the Year.

“This means a lot,” Garcia said. “Coming off my freshman year, no one knew who I was. And to have a breakout season my sophomore year, it’s crazy.”

“He just blew up on the scene,” Mission Veterans coach David Gilpin said. “He’s a playmaker. He’s a great, coachable kid. It’s good to see him get recognized out here. I’m real proud of him.”

Mikey’s father, Gilbert, is one of the driving forces for Mikey to becoming a better football player. A former Mission High quarterback himself, Gilbert understands the gravity of the honor.

“He definitely exceeded my expectations,” Gilbert said. “Everyone knows speed kills and since he was a little kid, he’s always had the speed.”

“My dad was real proud of my accomplishments this year,” Garcia said. “I know I surprised him because I surprised myself at times especially with my first touchdown against Harlingen High. That made me realize that I could compete at this level.”

Ben Gonzales is Mikey’s wide receiver coach at Mission Veterans. Gonzales is quite familiar with the Garcia family since he coached Gilbert in football and basketball while he and Mikey’s mother, Sara Rendon, attended Kenneth E. White Junior High in Mission during the late 1990s.

“It’s an honor to coach the children of kids that we’ve coached before,” Gonzales said. “In Mikey, I see the athleticism which he gets from his dad. He gets his speed from his mom who ran track for us. He’s got a little bit of both in him.

“It’s good to see him accomplish the things he’s accomplishing. One of our things we talk to our kids about is setting goals and accomplishing the goals they set. I’m sure it’s the goal of every kid to be the All-Area Newcomer of the Year or Player of the Year. The kid works hard like all our other receivers do. It’s great to work with a kid like him.”

Gilbert and Mikey regularly go over game tape together and point out instances where he can improve.

“Sometimes I can be a little hard on him,” Gilbert said. “I’d tell him he did a good job, but he could always do better. Then he’d ask me if it (his performance) was ever good enough and I’d tell him it won’t always be because that’s how life is. There are going to be ups and downs.

“One example is during the Sharyland game (a 48-42 Sharyland win on Nov. 3) when he dropped what would have been a winning touchdown. I told him to shake it off and keep playing. Two days later in the NFL, (Atlanta Falcons wide receiver) Julio Jones dropped a long ball that would have been a touchdown all by himself. He gets paid millions to catch a ball and even he doesn’t make the catch every time. It’s all about how you handle adversity whenever it comes your way. That’s what I try to teach Mikey.”

Now that he has the distinction of the area’s top newcomer and two seasons of football ahead of him, Garcia sees where the holes in his game are and what it will take to fill them in.

“There are a lot of things I can do,” Garcia said. “For one, try not to get too cocky with my speed. There were a few times when I would break out into the open, and instead of cutting across the field, I’d just keep running straight. I need to have better peripheral vision. I also need to get in the weight room, get bigger and cut down on the drops as well. I have to listen to my coaches and believe what they’re teaching me.”