Teton Saltes, an offensive lineman for the University of New Mexico football team, was presented with the Wuerffel Trophy during the Home Depot College Football Awards on Jan. 7.
The trophy is given to an individual that “best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.” Saltes is the first individual to win the award from the Mountain West Conference and the first UNM player to be given a major award in the history of Lobo football.
After graduating with a degree in political science and Native American studies, Saltes spent his senior season with UNM while enrolled in the School of Law, spending his free time giving back to both the New Mexico and South Dakota communities.
In South Dakota, Saltes volunteers with the Oglala Sioux Tribe Sweetgrass Project, which works in suicide awareness and prevention. Saltes also volunteers with Oglala Lakota schools, where he speaks with children on the struggles they face in life — especially on the reservation — and on bullying.
While in New Mexico, Saltes has been a part of the BEAR Program (Be Excited About Reading), serving as a peer mentor and working with youth in the summer, on school breaks and through an online program in improving reading skills.
Although the awards show was done virtually, Saltes was still able to receive the award from the Tow Diehm Football Complex on UNM’s campus.
UNM football head coach Danny Gonzales praised Saltes for the singular achievement.
“Teton is a tremendous young man who is very deserving of being named the winner of the Wuerffel Trophy,” Gonzales said. “He is a selfless young man who has dedicated himself to speaking out on behalf of children, suicide prevention and many other causes.”
Gonzales also praised Saltes for still working with the many causes he’s passionate about during the 2020 season, in which the Lobos played the entire season in Nevada due to COVID-19. UNM athletics director Eddie Nuñez contributed his own commendations as well.
“What a tremendous honor for Teton to be receiving the Wuerffel Trophy,” Nuñez said. “What he has done by serving others off the field, in his community as well as in New Mexico, through his leadership, his impact and his humility is a true example of being a servant leader.”
UNM assistant athletics director of communications Frank Mercogliano also praised Saltes for his work in both New Mexico and South Dakota.
“Teton’s entire education at UNM has been geared to change the law for the betterment of a race of people,” Mercogliano said.
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While the formal presentation of the award was postponed due to the pandemic, the presentation will be shown at the 52nd Annual All Sports Association Awards Banquet on Feb. 20, 2021, in Niceville, Florida.
Spencer Butler is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SpencerButler48