Gearing Up for Third Annual Native All-Star Football Classic

Rosemary Stephens
April 15, 2013

The third annual Native All-Star Football Classic (NASFC) will be held at 7 p.m. on July 6, 2013 on the Arlington campus of the University of Texas, Maverick Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

This year’s event features an exhibition game of Native female lacrosse players that will come in from Six Nations in Canada and will be played at 7 p.m. on July 5, 2013.

The producer of the event is Native Re-Vision, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit corporation located in Dallas, Texas.

The lacrosse exhibition is an exciting way to showcase the sport of lacrosse in the South.  It was born out of Native Re-Vision’s desire to give something to Native American girls that was different from basketball or softball.

“We do not know much about the sport of lacrosse here in the [southern] states, but it is the fastest growing sport in the U.S.,” Steve Cardwell, Cheyenne and Arapaho, chairman and founder of Native Re-Vision, said.

'Just as we have the blue and red teams playing in the Football Classic, it will be the Blue Eagles against the Redhawks. You can be sure that the football warriors will be cheering loudly for their own blue and red team ‘sisters’.”

“We are very happy to be having these events at a Division I university,” Cardwell said.  “We really want to give the kids a feel of a big time Division I school.  The kids are very excited to see what it is like to live and interact on a large campus. It is a memory they will not forget and maybe will share with their children one day.”

Cardwell stated that Native Re-Vision’s mission is to get Native American athletes into a university so they can get a good education.

“We are seeing more and more Native American athletes with really good grades and a focus on the future. This is a good thing to see. It tells us that times are changing for the better,” Cardwell said. “Most people know the stereotype of football players. They are not smart and they are all brawn and no brains. This is not what we are seeing out at our event. It seems our Native athletes are being more pro-active in working on their grades and seem more determined to make something out of their life.”

Along with speakers to motivate and inspire the athletes, they are treated to a tour of Cowboys Stadium. They will have a bowling and billiards tournament at this year’s camp to get the rivalry started.

“Last year the teams faced off in a canoe race on the Illinois River in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The Blue Eagles won the race. It made for a lot of fun, as there were kids from tribes who never had been on the water or in a canoe. That was very entertaining to the local kids,” Cardwell said, with a laugh. “The Redhawks two-game winning streak was halted by the Blue Eagles and their second year head coach, Cody 'Iron Eyes' Wilson, at last year’s game. He will face a formidable task this year in a rematch with James 'Sandman' Sandusky from Lummi Nation Indian School in Washington state. Sandman was coming off of a state championship in 2011 at Lummi and his Red Hawks team was able to put the Blue Eagles away in the second half of that contest and cruised to a dominating win.”

Under the direction of Native Re-Vision, the game has progressed into a mainstream media event with ESPN the Magazine and VYPE Magazine committing to cover this year’ event.

“We are also happy to announce a partnership with a new entity into Indian country sports, Kollegetown Sports (KT All Nations). Athletic apparel maker Kollegetown Sports, one of the largest Adidas team dealers in the U.S., has agreed to partner with Native Re-Vision to support the Native All-Star Football Classic and Native girls lacrosse exhibition this year. We are excited to have a large corporate partner who believes in our Native youth programs at Native Re-Vision. We are proud to wear the Adidas brand,” Cardwell announced. “Their tag line is Adidas all in. We are so happy to work with a partner who understands the huge impact we are having with getting our Native athletes into a college program, and Adidas is showing they want to be a part of that goal. We have put a large number of kids into Haskell Indian Nations University and plan to put in a whole lot more. We are also happy to have the game back in Texas and close to Cowboys Stadium. The campus at UT Arlington has built new dorms with shops and restaurants underneath and a new engineering building and basketball arena. We do not have to leave campus to eat out or shop.”

Participants and guests will get to see a Texas-sized fireworks show as well. The choice of many venues are available to ensure the athletes, who have worked so hard in the classroom and on the field of play, will get to be rewarded with a memorable experience that will last forever.

The NASFC originated from a desire to provide American Indian athletes with a college football experience and to introduce Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas as an option for college. The Haskell College Scholarship program is a beacon of hope for these young men who are at the crossroads of life. If offered a scholarship, American Indian students can earn a four-year degree at Haskell for just a few hundred dollars a year, including tuition and housing expenses.

The NASFC consists of 60-80 American Indian tribal-enrolled athletes attending a week-long camp culminating in the Native All-Star Classic football game where the athletes get to showcase their talent, strength, speed and skill. The camp is completely free to the athletes.  The volunteer coaches come from all over the nation, former pro football players, high school program coaches, and coaches involved with Indian college programs. Most have heard of the game from the previous coaches or players. The American Indian players are current graduated high school seniors who have exhibited outstanding achievement in the classroom as well as on the field.

The NASFC operated "underground" for nine years with the game held at different locations around the country.  Steve Cardwell, an American Indian business owner attended the game in 2009. In his business travels and contact with American Indians all over the country he found that not many Indians had heard of this game. He believed it was an incredible event that brought honor to the game of football as well as to the American Indian. Cardwell decided to help grow the game into the mainstream media so all American Indians could eventually watch the game on television and root for their favorite player who may be from the same tribe they are. He formed a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and began his work to expand interest and awareness of the annual event and to ensure the event continues each year at no cost to the athletes. Attendance at the game has grown from 50 people in 2009 to 320 in 2011, to 450 in 2012 and now an estimated 700-800 plus is expected to be in attendance at this year’s game.

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