Story by John Leykam
Still at Home on the Gridiron
What do Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, wide receiver Terrell Owens and Henry Sroka '78 have in common?
Each is instrumental to the success of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys. "I'd have to agree," says Sroka. "This is a dream job. I thank God every day for this opportunity. What a privilege it has been to work under Mr. Jones (Dallas owner Jerry) and coach Parcells."
As a regional scout, Sroka scours Southwest college campuses for talent. His input, and that of other scouts, is reflected in decisions during each year's collegiate draft.
His football experience at Saint Mary's under head coaches Jim McDonald and Dick Mannini, and 18 subsequent years as a coach, serve Sroka well in his job. "Ninety percent of my time is spent interacting with college coaches. When I'm scouting, I try to think like a coach."
Former Saint Mary's Athletic Director Carl Clapp first met Sroka while both were young assistant coaches at ASU. They were later reunited at Wichita State and Redlands, where Clapp served as the A.D. "Henry is a tremendous individual who has gained the respect of many people. I can't say enough positive things about him," Clapp says.
Sroka had an interesting journey from a Marist Brothers' secondary school in Mexico, where he was raised, to the Cowboys. He emigrated from Mexico and lived with an aunt in San Francisco, enrolling at the College of San Mateo and joining its football team.
Encouraged by a trainer at CSM to check out Saint Mary's, Sroka was drawn to the school's Catholic values and competitive football program, where he developed as a running back and place kicker.
Sroka competed for two seasons (1976–1977) before being sidelined by injury. McDonald recalls Sroka as a terrific team player beloved by his teammates. "I remember him scoring a touchdown near the end of his career and the players carrying him off the field." Sroka was awarded the Brother Albert Rahill Award for team loyalty.
Inspired by Saint Mary's faculty members Father Owen Carroll and Sepehr Zabih, Sroka was intrigued by issues in the Middle East. He majored in government and later earned a master's degree in public policy while coaching in college.
Sroka coached at Wichita State, Arizona State, New Mexico State and University of Redlands. Former coaching colleagues recommended him to the Cowboys.
Sroka, wife Linn, daughter Maria del Pilar and sons Mikael and Dominic live in the Dallas area. Linn was a standout collegiate basketball player and, like her husband, had a career as a strength and conditioning coach.
While at Arizona State, Sroka became a naturalized American citizen — an achievement he considers an unmatched honor. Given his own life experiences, Henry is keenly interested in the ongoing controversy over U.S. immigration policies. "I pray for our leaders to make the right decisions in these matters," he reflects. "The human being has to be respected. There is a price of citizenship and much to be weighed in determining it. I know how much being an American citizen means to me.''