Michael Moreno and Victor Rojas wish they could take it back.
The Texas teenagers, speaking exclusively to George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America,” were suspended from their football team and school after blindsiding a referee during a game.
Video of the incident drew national attention after the footage showed the boys going out of their way to collide with referee Robert Watts, whose back was to the players at the time. The teens, playing for John Jay High School in the San Antonio area, say they were following orders from an assistant coach, Mack Breed.
“You put your trust into this grown-up, this guardian, your coach, who’s been there for me. … I trust him. I did what I was told,” Moreno said.
The coach pulled Moreno and another player aside and told them, “You need to hit the ref. He needs to pay the price,” Moreno said.
Moreno said he then relayed the message to Rojas. The other player didn’t follow through with the plan to target referee Robert Watts, but Moreno and Rojas did — allegedly because the referee had missed calls and used racial slurs during the game, the players said.
Watts, through his attorney, has denied the racial slur accusation to ABC News.
Breed is currently on paid leave. He has yet to comment on the allegations lodged against him.
The teens expressed sorrow for the matter and publicly apologized to Watts.
“I would apologize for the mistake that I made,” Rojas said.
Moreno said he has plans of being an aerospace engineer, but due to his suspension, and the potential for criminal charges, his future plans remain in doubt.
“Everyone sees me as this thug or this gangster, I did this because I’m this bad guy … that’s not who I am,” said Moreno, 17. “Underneath the helmet and the pads, I’m a great kid.”
The school district will hold a hearing Wednesday to decide on the proper treatment for the teens, with alternative school and expulsion as options, their attorney Jesse Hernandez said. Hernandez believes the boys have already experienced an appropriate level of punishment.
“They apologized, they’re sorry. They didn’t mean to do this,” Hernandez said.
Officials with the Northside Independent School District said they plan to file a formal complaint against Watts, while Watts is considering taking legal action against the players.
Police in Marble Falls, Texas continue a criminal investigation into the incident.