BY: Holly Sow/Sports Editor/Arizona Silver Belt
San Carlos — It is a proud moment for every high school coach to see one of their athletes have the talent and ability to move to the next level.
This past week, head football coach, Shawn Pietila, of San Carlos had that honor not just with one player, but with four.
San Carlos seniors Uriah Thompson, Nicholas Lister, Michael Newman, and Andrew Gambler all signed letters of intent to play football for Haskell Indian Nations University.
These four young men not only awed on the football field, they also excelled in the classroom.
Above all, these young Apaches carry with them the dream of a better future not just for themselves, but for their Reservation above all.
After being asked what each planned on studying, every one of the soon to be college freshmen concluded with, “and then I will come back to San Carlos.”
While many small communities often see people leave for education and better job opportunities in big cities, Uriah, Nicholas, and Michael all told the Moccasin that they plan on bringing their education back home and putting it to use for a better future for all.
Uriah plans on majoring in business and starting up his own business perhaps in San Carlos. Nicholas, who is active in his school’s XXXXX club, will major in natural resources and wants to focus on the improvement and advancement of Tribal farms on the reservation. Michael is also interested in studying natural resources or life sciences, fields that are vital to the preservation and sustainability of any community.
When asked if they felt it was sometimes hard to juggle football practice and school work, all of them said the two actually go hand in hand. “Football is my motivation. If I didn’t have the grades to play, I wouldn’t have been able to what I love,” Uriah said.
Nicholas added, “Football kept me disciplined on and off the field.”
Michael said football, “taught me to respect people. If you disrespect others, people might think it comes from the coach’s influence. I don’t want my coach to look bad.” He emphasized what an inspiration his coach has been for him and the others.
Uriah agreed, “Coach Pietila is my role model because he also played college football. I look up to him a lot.” Uriah also explained how Coach Pietila emphasized the importance of furthering one’s education and making something of oneself, saying this had a big impact on his own decision to play ball at college.
When asked about other role models in their lives, there was no hesitation – family. “My older brother Andrew,” Nicholas smiled. “He was always there for me and my family. I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement from my family to live my dream on this reservation as a farmer.” Nicholas then pointed to his mother standing some yards away and added, “that lady is a strong woman!”
Michael also praised his mother, explaining that she was a single mother raising her children, but she managed everything. All three young men shared their background coming from single-mother families and praised their mothers for everything they did to support their families.
These well-spoken and ambitious young men also had very wise advice to share with their underclassmen and fellow students at San Carlos High School. “Stay in school, keep your grades up and stay away from drugs and alcohol!” Uriah stated. “Set goals that you want to achieve.”
Nicholas reminded his fellow athletes, “Go to the weight room all the time!” He also added as advice to all, “Listen to what older people have to say. Respect the elders!”
Michael also had wise words to share, “Be careful who you hang out with. Choose good friends who will be there for you.” He then added a motivational note, “If I can do it, anyone can.”
Coach Pietila is very proud of his student athletes, who through perseverance and dedication have taken another huge step toward a bright and promising future. This is what he had to say about each of the four signees:
Uriah Thompson: As a four year starter at running back for San Carlos, Uriah has totaled over 2,500 career rushing yards along with 25 rushing touchdowns as well as four spectacular kickoff returns for touchdowns. He has maintained a GPA higher than a 3.0 all four years and was also one of our best defensive players tallying over 150 tackles on defense. The 5’7” running back has earned many nicknames because of his powerful shifty running style, including Jitterbug and our favorite “Baby Legs”. Uriah grew up living right next to the Braves football field and wanted to play for the San Carlos Braves his whole life following in his brother Morgan’s footsteps. You can see Uriah’s proud grandfather, Mr. Morgan, who I a frequent at any Braves sporting event camped out with the best seat in the house in his camping chair, who has watched almost everyone of Uriah’s practices from that same chair or his vehicle from the parking lot. Uriah will have a wonderful chance to compete for playing time at the running back position for the Haskell Indians this fall.
Michael Newman: Michael is the definition of a student athlete. He is top 4 in his class academically and went from a very minimal contributor his freshman and sophomore years to a team captain and leader later in his high school career. Michael played offensive tackle his whole career and played whatever position we needed him to on defense. He was a two-way starter his senior year and played defensive end, outside linebacker, and middle linebacker, finishing his career with over 75 tackles. Michael is scrappy and is one of the best offensive linemen to wear a Braves’ jersey as he was a tremendous leader on the offensive line. Michael will most likely play linebacker for the Haskell Indians this fall.
Nicholas Lister: Nick is a hard hitting stud on the defensive side of the ball. He really had a coming out party his sophomore year leading the team in tackles better than halfway through the season. He has a fiery spirit and was one of our top defensive players this season with 47 tackles, 3 fumble recoveries, and one interception. Nick also stepped up and took over at quarterback this season when our starting quarterback went down with an injury two days before our scrimmage. Nick also contributed at wide receiver this season pulling in 11 catches. Nick’s high school career totaled over 125 tackles. Nick will play either safety or linebacker for the Haskell Indians this fall.
Andrew Gambler: Andrew was a first year letterman for the San Carlos Braves. Andrew was a starter and leader on the offensive line for the Braves this year. Andrew was a good leader and joy to be around as he brought a nice sense of work ethic and toughness to the Braves this season. Andrew also played inside linebacker and defensive line this year for the Braves.