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Tohono O’odham Football Player Antonio Rosales Has NFL Dreams

Tohono O'odham Offensive lineman Antonio Rosales in action against the Cal State Bears.

I didn’t even know Native Americans really existed anymore. I thought they were just in movies.

“It was eye-opening [to hear this from non-Natives at San Diego State]. I felt like I was in a whole new world,” said Division 1 football player and 21-year-old Antonio Rosales (Tohono O’odham) about his experience becoming a student at San Diego State University.

Rosales is a junior majoring in social sciences. His parents are Wanda and Ruben Rosales of Tucson.

It all started when his dad introduced him to football at age 5. As he grew older, he watched his older brother play and found a passion for the sport. Standing at 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, it was only natural for him to find himself on the offensive line as a right guard.

SDSU (10-3) captured its second consecutive Mountain West Conference title earlier this month. The team plays the Houston Cougars in the Las Vegas Bowl on December 17.

Rosales uses his platform to bring awareness to different Native issues and to show youth that they can do anything. Growing up, Rosales mentions not really having any Native athletes to look up to, so he decided to be that role model not only for himself, but for youth and other members of the Native community as well.

Q&A with Antonio Rosales:

Who is your favorite football player and why?

I don’t really have a favorite football player, but someone I really looked up to is my older brother, who is such a great athlete. Growing up and getting older, I started looking up to other people in the Native community, such as the Schimmel sisters (Jude and Shoni), Wynona Peters, Billy Mills and Jim Thorpe. In the sports world, or just about any world, there are not a lot of Native American athletes. So making it and being some of the only ones, it’s definitely more challenging.

What drives you to continue to work hard as a student athlete?

One of the main things that drives me is not only being one of very few Native athletes, but also because of history and how they tried to erase [Native Americans]. Sadly, they were kind of successful, because if you look at the statistics now, you don’t see a lot of Natives in universities or playing D1 sports. That’s what drives me, breaking [through] that and letting everyone know that we’re still here and that there’s more Native Americans to come.

Who do you play for?

My family and definitely the Native Community—I play for them. [With] everything I do, I want to relay a message to the kids in the Native communities across the nation, that what we’re doing at the collegiate level is hard, but it’s possible and it’s worth it.

What are some of your goals after graduation and collegiate football?

My main goal is making it to the National Football League. That’s always been a dream. I’m still trying to make that happen, and I have one more year to make that happen.

What advice do you have for Native youth?

Stay positive. If you want to accomplish something, you’re going to have to work really hard for it. There’s going to be times you’re going to doubt yourself, but you just have to stay positive and keep your mindset. You have to be hungry. You have to want something so bad that you’ll do anything for it—you’ll die for it and bleed for it. That’s the only way you can be successful with all the cards against you. In today’s society, we Natives are not very present. The way history is supposed to be is, they meant to erase us. We’re not supposed to be here. Our ancestors fought so we could have the opportunity to make something of ourselves and be somebody. Even if we have all cards against us, it’s possible.