On January 11, 2013, an estimated 100 of the best college football seniors in the country will go head-to-head in a nationally televised job interview at Kino Stadium in Tucson, Arizona, otherwise known as the Casino Del Sol College All-Star Game.
“This game is really a platform for collegiate football seniors who want to compete at the next level,” says Joe Dan Rogers, executive director of the Casino Del Sol game and founder of Valiant Sports & Entertainment in Atlanta, Georgia. Rogers says up to 130 invited personnel from all 32 NFL teams will be in Tucson for the game, clipboards in hand, to evaluate these talented, hopeful college seniors vying for a shot at an NFL career.
“Last year’s roster had 93 players on it, and of those, we had 67 kids make an NFL roster for training camp – that’s 72%!” Rogers shares proudly. “The General Manager from the 49’ers was here, and the GM from the Green Bay Packers, too. It all translates into us having a captive audience for these players.” Rogers expects about 15 GM’s to attend this year.
Players will arrive on Sunday, January 6th, with a private NFL evaluation day on Monday. “Players get evaluated by height, weight and other factors. It’s a chance for NFL personnel to put values on them,” explains Rogers, who was a scout for the Atlanta Falcons at one time. One important thing they’ll be looking for is attitude. “What you want at the NFL level is good quality, high-character kids. We’re not going to tolerate any kids acting up or being disrespectful. These players come in knowing this is a job interview, not a vacation.” Rogers says he started handpicking players this past August.
With marquee players on the roster, such as Dayne Crist, a quarterback from the University of Kansas who transferred from Notre Dame -- and a legendary coaching staff that includes Dick Tomey, Ron McBride and Houston Nutt -- it’s also expected to be a really great game, and highly beneficial to the city of Tucson.
“It brings in more than $3 million in economic activity into this town,” says Wendell Long, CEO of Casino del Sol Resort, Spa and Conference Center, the main sponsor of the event, owned by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. “When you’re watching the game on ESPN in Milwaukee under a foot of snow, it makes you want to come to Tucson.”
Long says this all-star game also elevates the visibility of the Pascua Yaqui tribe. “In Indian Country, it’s not necessarily all about profit. It’s about raising the prestige of your tribe and of the casino, and this game is a great way for us to get our name out across the country.”
This year, proceeds from the much-anticipated all-star game will benefit the Tucson Conquistadores, a nonprofit organization founded in 1962 that raises money for disadvantaged youth of Southern Arizona. “We’ve given away more than $26 million in 50 years, and are humbled, honored and thrilled to the official charitable arm of this game,” says Brandt Hazen, president of the Conquistadores, whose primary fundraiser is the Accenture Match Play golf tournament every year. Native tribes have benefitted from the Conquistadores’ generosity, too. Last year, Hazen said they donated $2,000 to the Ha:San Preparatory & Leadership School for Tohono O'odham youth.
Event organizers agree that the highlight of the week leading up to the big game is the Youth Camp, a private event where several hundred children from the Pascua Yaqui tribe get to run, throw, catch and kick the football with the all-stars. “Players have on their game-day jerseys, the kids get autographs and take pictures with them – it’s awesome!” says Executive Director Rogers.
While no Native American players were on the roster when ICTMN spoke with Rogers, he said he was working on getting Brad Madison, a defensive lineman for the Missouri Tigers, to play in the game. To nominate a standout native player for the Casino Del Sol All-Star Football Game, send an e-mail to Rogers at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Pascua Yaquis:
The Pascua Yaqui Tribe is a federally recognized tribe in southwest Tucson, Arizona, with more than 17,000 tribal members. In addition to owning the AAA Four-Diamond-rated, 215-room Casino Del Sol Resort, the tribe also owns the Sewailo Golf Course, designed by Notah Begay III, scheduled to open in 2013. The reservation is home to two casinos – Casino of the Sun and Casino Del Sol, as well as the Anselmo Valencia Tori Amphitheater, and the Del Sol Marketplace, comprised of a gas station, car wash, convenience store and smoke shop.
Lynn Armitage is a freelance writer and 49er’s fan who lives in Northern California. You can reach her at: Boatfolk@aol.com.