Leo Longoria arrived at the Cardinals’ facility on Tuesday morning for a low-key goodbye.
Longoria was hired almost a year ago as a dish washer in the team’s cafeteria, no easy job considering the kitchen staff feeds several meals a day to players, coaches and front office personnel. But he was preparing for a much tougher one -- a deployment overseas as a member of the Army that evening.
Longoria came in and shot the breeze with his co-workers in the kitchen as his final moments with the group counted down.
“We were going to eat some cake, probably,” Longoria said. “That was about it.”
But then, it became something much more. Executive chef Stacey Weber had previously told team president Michael Bidwill about Longoria’s deployment, and Bidwill set up a grand exit.
Bidwill made his way over for a chat with Longoria in the cooking area of the kitchen. While they talked, the entire Cardinals team filled the cafeteria and began chanting ‘Leo’ in unison.
“All of a sudden I just started hearing my name,” Longoria said. “It started echoing, and I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then they opened the door and all the players were throughout this entire area. They were all cheering my name, looking at me. That was amazing to see. You hear my name echoing and then people started clapping. Never really had I had that feeling before.”
Coach Steve Wilks shook Longoria’s hand and expressed admiration for his service.
“We wanted to show our appreciation for all that you do, for this organization, but most importantly, your commitment to serve our country,” Wilks told him.
Longoria, who hasn’t been deployed before, was given Cardinals gear and Wilks told him his job would be waiting for him upon return. Longoria was amazed by the gesture.
“It shows that I have a caring place where I work, and that’s amazing,” Longoria said. “Having seen all the guys out there and going through all this, that was awesome. It warmed my heart."