Cross Keys speaks in Spanish on the football field

When Cross Keys’ football team started speaking in Spanish before some offensive snaps a few years ago, one referee thought the players were cursing.

“We had a game where the official warned us about the language,” Cross Keys coach David Radford said. “I asked ‘What did they say?’ And when he told me, I was like ‘No, they are speaking Spanish. We do our cadence in Spanish.’”

Cross Keys coach David Radford (right) speaks to his team (AJC)

Cross Keys coach David Radford (right) speaks to his football team (AJC)

Surprised by the revelation, the ref listened closely over the next few plays. Sure enough, Cross Keys players were communicating in Spanish before snapping the football.

“The referee apologized, saying, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,’” Radford recalled with a laugh. “After the game, he came over to talk. He was curious to how long we’ve been doing it and what made us do it.

“And I was like, ‘Go look at our kids. The bulk of them are Hispanic.’”

Cross Keys is one of the most culturally diverse high schools in Georgia with students from more than 65 countries who speak at least 75 different languages. The roster reads like a world atlas: Mexico, Zambia, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, El Salvador, and South Korea.

Why such diversity at one school? Cross Keys is located in eastern Brookhaven, one of Atlanta’s most affordable places to live, and many newcomers with foreign backgrounds have family and friends in the area.

Three years ago, Radford look a hard at his roster. Nearly 50 percent of his players came from Hispanic heritage. He decided that Spanish cadence “just made sense.”

Quarterback Diego Gaytan said it has advantages, such as confusing opposing defenses just before the snap.

“They don’t know what we’re doing sometimes,” Gaytan said. “You see their faces and they are trying to figure what we are saying.”

Radford said some opponents have objected.

“Their kids tell our kids we should be speaking in English,” he said. “We tell our kids not to respond and to focus on football.”

Cross Keys (2-5-1) has won the most games more since 2004.

Druid Hills coach Kip Hall defeated Cross Keys earlier this season and said his team was prepared.

“That’s only because we had played against them in passing league the past few years,” Hall said. “But I imagine the Spanish confuses some teams.”

A typical Cross Keys snap sequence goes something like:

“Abajo” (down).

“Listo” (set).


Cross Keys coaches will also use Spanish to yell last-second instructions or adjustments from the sidelines.

When Radford first introduced the Spanish strategy, a few players were skeptical.

“They thought it was a joke, being that we had some kids who didn’t know Spanish,” he said. “I told them not to worry, that it will be easy to pick up. And it has.”

One unforeseen consequence has been more Hispanic kids considering playing football at a school where soccer is most popular.

“It allows Cross Keys in a round-about way to bridge American football with our large Hispanic population,” Radford said.

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16 comments Add your comment

peace out

October 24th, 2010
5:36 pm

Hey your in America speak it or go play with jumping beans

peace out

October 24th, 2010
5:38 pm

oh yeah worst!

Ted Striker

October 25th, 2010
3:28 am

Cool story. Very cool.

War Eagle 30082

October 25th, 2010
6:42 am

@peace out:

You’re in America…why don’t you learn how to write it?

Whatever works for them is OK with me. I bet that if you and your idiot buddies were playing touch football in another country, you’d make your calls in English, right?

You’re an IDIOT…and you’re right, you are the worst!

peace out

October 25th, 2010
10:09 am

War Eagle 30082 your a bigger Idiot and I can prove it. You root for Auburn and are from Alabama. Hell the best thing that ever came out of Alabama is I-65. Oh yeah BITE MY AMERICAN ENGLISH SPEAKING ASS. Stupid redneck shouldn’t even own a computer.

@peace out

October 25th, 2010
10:30 am

Aah – not every day you see a guy proclaim on a blog that he talks out of his ass


October 25th, 2010
11:02 am

@peaceout are you really that much of an idiot. Let me guess next thing out of you mouth is “The South will Rise Again” why don’t you crawl; back under your rock.

Art Vandelay

October 25th, 2010
11:39 am

Hey peace out, don’t you have a Tea Party or Klan rally to attend somewhere?

Hey, Art...

October 25th, 2010
3:06 pm

…wht’s wrong with a Tea Party…

TTTT-Thumbody Thed Thats Thupid!

October 25th, 2010
4:34 pm

Yep, that is some real assimilation right there. Wonder how many of them are here illegally?


October 25th, 2010
4:52 pm

It’s called the pursuit of happiness. Thomas Jefferson? He kind of mentioned it right up there with life and liberty as a part of the fabric of our nation, remember?

If spanish audibles on offense is what works for the Cross Keys football team, more power to them. Enjoy the game!!!!


October 25th, 2010
5:55 pm

Actually, I think it would be much more likely of him to attend an SEIU or acorn event….

peace out

October 25th, 2010
6:03 pm

Not only are you idiots supporting them with welfare and foodstamps you are allowing them to cheat on the football field. Why don’t yall add on a room and let them live with you. Oh thats right you wouldn’t be able to understand them when they wanted your job. Anybody else wanna take up for these drug smugglers check out the balls they’re probably full of pot or coke.


October 25th, 2010
8:53 pm

I thought the Highline School District, here in Burien, WA and environs had a large number
of different groups. This has us beat. Would like to compare the two.

UGA Alum

October 25th, 2010
10:18 pm

@peace out : Must be nice to hide behind your message board alias and spout hateful rhetoric… Let me guess? You’re a true American that has the right to be here because you were born here! Yea I’m sure no one in your family immigrated to this country to give you the shot at a better life…

“Hey your in America speak it or go play with jumping beans”

I can see that High School degree is treating you well… In America we use the contraction “you’re” when shortening the phrase “you are”

Let me use it in a sentence for you:

You’re absolutely pathetic.


October 29th, 2010
3:34 pm

@peace out

you my dear friend are a peace of crap. 1. Auburn is in Alabama. 2.Not all Mexicans do drugs. 3. They, Mexicans, probably work harder then you will ever work in your entire meaningless life. So before you come here and talk random crap make sure you get your facts straight before you make a complete fool out of yourself. Thank you