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Dalton Walker
Indian Country Today

PHOENIX — Priscilla Notah wanted to show off her speed.

She also wanted to represent for other girls during a recent football combine and, of course, “show out.”

Notah, 13, was among dozens of Indigenous athletes at what was described as the first ever Indigenous Football Combine in south Phoenix at Cesar Chavez High School. On May 14, Phoenix Indian Center, in partnership with the NFL Players Association, Desert Lotus, My Recruits, and the 7G Foundation, hosted the free event for American Indian, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian high school football athletes.

“It’s cool that everyone showed up today, and we all showed out,” Notah said.

Notah is from Sacaton, from the nearby Gila River Indian Community. Athletes from as far away as California and the Navajo Nation traveled to the desert for their love of football.

Priscilla Notah, Gila River Indian Community, participates in the Indigenous Football Combine in Phoenix, May 14, 2022 (Photo by Dalton Walker, Indian Country Today)

The combine drills included a 40-yard dash, shuttle, power ball toss, broad jump, and individual competitions. The near-triple digit temperature didn’t appear to affect the players, as all were encouraged often to drink water.

Former NFL player Toby Wright led the drill work. Wright, a former Nebraska Cornhusker, is from the Phoenix area and played professional football for nearly a decade, starting in 1994. Other former college and pro players were on hand to help. A college recruiting specialist from My Recruits was also available for questions.

(Related: Indigenous Bowl showcases best of Indian Country)

Jolyana Begay-Kroupa, chief executive officer of the Phoenix Indian Center, said she was happy with the combine’s turnout. The center, which is celebrating its 75th year, provides services that resonate with the Native community, said Begay-Kroupa, Navajo Nation.

“There's lots of annual events that support basketball and running, not so much in the area of football, but yet we have, you know, some really dedicated skilled players,” she said. “So, today is about supporting them. It's one of those multiple avenues that we are trying to do at the Phoenix Indian Center to support our families and our youth.”

The Indigenous Football Combine in Phoenix, May 14, 2022 (Photo by Dalton Walker, Indian Country Today)

A priority for the combine was for it to be at no cost to participants, Begay-Kroupa said.

“Many times there are camps scheduled throughout, there are plenty. However, there's always a cost tied to them,” she said. “And in many instances, our target community it's not doable for them. And so to provide a first ever free Indigenous combine, why not?”

Diego Mendoza, San Carlos Apache, said he had fun, but wasn’t satisfied with his drill work. He knows what he needs to improve on before his upcoming senior season.

His coach at San Carlos High School told him about the combine and Mendoza, a running back, made it a priority to get to Phoenix.

“The reason I attended the combine was because I just wanted to see where I'm at in football and the level. See if I can try getting some college coaches' attention,” Mendoza said.

The 40-yard dash was Notah’s favorite drill. Notah, a quarterback, plays for a traveling flag football team based in Chandler, Arizona, and has competed in Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada and California. Tackle football could be in her future, she said.

“I decided to come today to show, like, other girls you can play football. Play with the boys and show them out, too.”

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