Iipay Nation’s Nathan Zuniga was selected as one of 70 in his age group in the Western United States.
Nathan Zuniga of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel became the first Native American youth football player from the west to be recognized as a Diamond West Coast All-American in January.
The 5’ 4”, 195-pound offensive and defensive lineman played in the West Coast Bowl Game held in Murrieta, California. Zuniga’s red team defeated the blue team 14-8. He told ICMN he enjoyed the experience.
“It made me feel proud,” Zuniga told ICMN, “knowing I am the only Native American [representing] the west coast.”Due to his performance, Nathan Zuniga has been selected to advance to the East vs. West game played in May in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“I like to go head-to-head with bigger or smaller players to show them what I’m made of,” Zuniga says.
His family, who fund-raised for him to participate in the contest, traveled 18 miles from the Pala Indian Reservation to watch the game.
“When my parents told me about [the game], I did my research,” he says.”I got very excited and knew it would be [an] awesome experience and a great opportunity to see and play against other kids from around the United States.
Nathan Zuniga received a nomination and from there, his family, who refers to him as “Nate Dawg” helped him fund-raise for registration and equipment fees.
His youth football team, the Temecula Saints, gave him well wishes before his departure via Facebook: “Congratulations to Nathan Zuniga (Temecula Saints Midget Player) for making the “Diamond Youth All American Bowl” also the first Native American to make the team!”
Diamond Sports Group hosts two All American Bowl Games each year. The All-American games feature 70 of the nation’s top youth athletes from 3rd to 9th grade, and seniors in high school. Two 35 player rosters are formed from across the country through a nomination process. “Our mission is to give the best exposure to these young athletes and show them now how to stay on the right path and to take this journey with us through high school,” Diamond Sports Group’s mission statement says.
Nathan Zuniga says he idolizes Jim Thorpe, the Pro Football Hall of Famer who rose to fame about 100 years before Zuniga was born. “He’s by far my favorite football player because he was Native and proved to people that Native’s are the best.”