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Frybread Fuel Helping Tohono O'odham’s Biggest Football Star

Three seasons ago, Antonio Rosales was his high school’s star athlete. He was 6-foot-4 and weighed 240 pounds.

Some schools saw the potential in the Tohono O’odham tribal member, like San Diego State, . Upon joining the team, he was required to gain weight so he could compete with defensive linemen 40 to 50 pounds heavier than he was.

But did he have to cut out foods like frybread?

“Oh no,” Rosales says. “I actually had frybread last night, as a matter of fact. They just say, ‘eat whatever I want.’”

So he unleashed beast inside himself on the practice field and at the dinner table. With a loose diet that included fry bread, he added 50 pounds over the next two seasons. Rosales is now 295 pounds and the starting right guard on a team that started the season 6-1 and is in the running for the Mountain West Conference championship.

He talked to ICTMN about his transition to college ball, what pumps him up and where he stands on the Dakota Access Pipeline:

What does it mean for you to be able to represent Indian country at college football’s highest level?

Things like this ... it doesn’t happen often. So to be someone who’s able to do it and let other kids in the community know that we can do it just feels real good.

What kind of goals do you have for this season?

Just be the best player I can be. Help my team out the best I can. Help us win the Mountain West Championship.

What’s the San Xavier Indian reservation like?

It’s quiet. Peaceful place. It’s not really that far from the city, but once you cross that reservation line you can definitely tell you’re on the reservation. People are just very together out there.

Have you or your family endured any hardships?

We didn’t always live on the reservation. We lived in the city. My mother was a police officer for the tribe. She ended up getting hurt at work. She had to get medically released. Unfortunately, they didn’t pay her what they were supposed to pay her. It put us really in a hole. It made us have to move from the city back to the rez, just because we couldn’t pay for our house.

You helped turn things around at Tucson Magnet high school as far as football goes. How’d that happen?

Before I showed up there the program hadn’t won very many games. They’re not known for sending guys out to Division I schools. The last guy was in 1998 and before that it was a long time.

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How do you get pumped up for a game?

IN the hotel before the games I just kind of keep to myself, keep my headphones in. Just do a lot of Northern Cree. Lot of Black Lodge Singers. Pretty much powwow music. Warrior music. Also watch a lot of Native movies. I’ll watch Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, get some anger in my system. I’ll look at history, manifest destiny; it really gets me going for games.

What are your thoughts on #NoDAPL?

I have a lot of family on the front lines over in the Dakotas. I don’t want [the Dakota Access Pipeline] to happen. Water is life. Gotta stop breaking all these treaties. Just stop. That’s basically it.Thank you for everyone that’s down there. If i wasn’t here, I would definitely be there.

Anything you want to say to those following your career?

Just that I do it for them; I do it for the Native community. They’re my biggest motivation. Being able to have kids know that it’s possible. That anything’s possible, no matter if it’s playing sports, becoming an artist, owning a business. Anything they want to do they’re able to make it happen no matter how much society tells us we can’t. We’re able to do it.

[Playing professional football] was my dream since second grade. I always told myself this is what I wanted to do. What really got me going the most was when people found out my ethnicity and tell me I probably won’t be able to do it because not many, not any of us end up being able to do what I do today. I want to change that and be able to let kids know that all that’s said about us not being able to do anything is bullshit and we’re actually going to do something.

Cary Rosenbaum (Colville) is a correspondent and columnist for Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter: @caryrosenbaum