The 2017 National Football League season has reached its halfway point. The playoff picture is starting to emerge, contenders are separating themselves from the pretenders, and everyone is gearing up for the stretch run. Despite all of the political and behind the scenes turmoil that the league has been caught up in this season, there has been some great football to watch on the field. A handful of the NFL's Latino players have played a part in both the on-field product as well as the league's diversity this year.
Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso has been the most impactful Latino player this season. The 27-year-old who is of Puerto Rican, Cuban and Colombian decent signed a contract extension before the season that made him the highest paid Latino defensive player in the league. He's earned every dime of it as he already has 51 total tackles and two forced fumbles on the season.
Alonso's biggest impact, however, has been through his charitable efforts.
His recent charitable work has been dedicated to hurricane relief for Puerto Rico which was practically destroyed by Hurricane Maria in September and is struggling to rebuild. So far his YouCaring page has raised over $164,000 and that's on top of the money he's donated out of his own pocket.
Green Bay Packers linebacker Blake Martinez -a Mexican-American- has had a big year. His 74 tackles have contributed to a defense that hasn't allowed more than 34 points in game this season. The second year player from Stanford is also very active on social media and in recent months he's used Twitter to help various charities.
Minnesota Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo is quite the success story. The 30-year-old of Mexican descent started his career in the minor leagues after going undrafted in the 2010 NFL draft. From there he worked his way up from an NFL practice squad, became a rotation player and eventually a starter. Now he mans the back end of the league's third-best defense. He has 42 tackles and an interception this year as he's living proof that hard work, dedication and determination always pays off.
At 3-6 the Indianapolis Colts aren't exactly having the best of seasons, but rookie punter Rigoberto Sanchez has been one of the few bright spots as they've struggled through 2017. Sanchez, whose parents were born in Mexico, was originally a soccer player but then switched to football in high school. He played his college ball at Hawaii and the Colts signed him as an undrafted free agent before the season.
He's been worth the investment as he ranks fourth with 18 punts downed inside of the 20-yard line, seventh in net yards per punt (42.8), and in the top-20 in average yards per punt (45.4). Sanchez has also been known to try his hand at singing from time to time.
Cleveland Browns rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez was either setting or breaking all-time kicking and scoring records as a senior at Arizona State last year. This year he's part of the rebuilding process with the Browns, and so far he's made 63 percent of his field goals and 99 percent of his extra points. The 22-year-old was born in Texas but his family roots come from Mexico.
His parents chose to name him Zane after watching the Mel Gibson movie "Maverick" and finding inspiration in the character "Zane Cooper."
With eight weeks left in the regular season, we're keeping our eyes on these players and what they can accomplish down the stretch.