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Dreams deferred: How gun violence cut a promising soccer career short

Daniel Ruiz poses for a portrait wearing a gray cap and blue prison uniform
KALW / Uncuffed
Daniel Ruiz was a soccer star when he was a teenager. Here, he poses for a photo inside Solano State Prison.

As a teenager, Daniel Ruiz was on track to have a promising career as a soccer star. It was a big deal for him and for his family. Not only did they all love the sport, playing soccer was set to be Daniel's ticket to a better life. The game was supposed to keep him out of trouble. But somehow, trouble found him anyway. Uncuffed producer Luis Gomez talked to Daniel about the rise and fall of his big dream.

Everything that I had accomplished, making it to Europe and playing for an international team — for USA — it just, it got put in the shadows.

This story was produced by Luis Gomez with help from Kathy Novak, Sonia Paul, Andrew Stelzer, Angela Johnston, and sound designer Eric Maserati-E Abercrombie.

This piece was brought to you by the team at Uncuffed. Our work in prisons is supported by the California Arts Council, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and donations from listeners like you. The producers fact-check content to the best of their ability. Content is approved by an information officer.

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Learn more, sign up for Uncuffed news, and support the program at www.weareuncuffed.org

Uncuffed Personal StoriesFrom The Producers Of Uncuffed
Luis Balbino Bandilla Gomez was born in the US, and comes from a first generation immigrant Mexican family. He graduated in 2022 from Lassen Community College with Vice Presidential honors, obtaining his degree in Social Sciences. He plans to transfer to a 4-year University in pursuit of a major in Infrastructure Systems. He loves working with computers, helping others, and leads the management of KALW’s studio equipment and inventory at Solano CSP. As an Uncuffed producer, Luis makes personal public-interest stories that reflect his Mexican culture inside and outside of prison.

Stories from inside California prisons