Teton Saltes doesn’t see the ball much as he blocks for the quarterback, or the running back on the football field.
But away from the field, figuratively, the 6-foot-6, 300-pound University of New Mexico offensive lineman recently took the ball and ran with it.
Saltes, a Valley High School alumnus known as much for his charitable acts as for his athleticism, has been working with Save the Children Action Network and was asked if he wanted to participate in a special reading event for kids.
“I said, ‘Let’s go a step further and let’s see if we can partner our whole athletic department to get everybody to participate,'” said Saltes, who has been working with Lacey Daniell-Miller of Save the Children Action Network, an organization that works to be “the political voice for kids.” “Coach (Jason) Lenzmeier, that’s who we reached out to first. Then it kind of just snowballed from there and we started to get (Eddie Nuñez) involved and now we have this big reading event with the entire Lobo atheltic department, with student-athletes and coaches who are participating in it. Reading to all the kids. … We also worked to get a book drive event. This thing just keeps growing each day. It’s been pretty cool.”
Saltes, and Lenzmeier, the UNM offensive line coach, brought along a big crew to help out with two projects:
■ Readers Make Leaders, a virtual reading experience each Tuesday afternoon through June that includes UNM student-athletes and coaches. This past Tuesday, Andrea Howard (softball) and Bryson Carroll (football) read to kids online. Parents in the community can sign up via the Save the Children Action Network website, SavetheChildActionNetwork.org/read-nm.
■ Lobo Kids Drive, a three-day event that will have volunteers from Save the Children Action Network, BBVA Bank and the UNM athletic department accepting donations of children’s books, diapers, baby food and baby formula for local youth and their families suffering from isolation and the economic effects of COVID-19. The drive takes place Thursday, 10 a.m. to noon at Dreamstyle Arena – The Pit, where donations will also be accepted on Friday, 4 p.m to 6 p.m.
There will also be donation drop-offs Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the BBVA Bank at 7530 Montgomery Blvd. NE; and Saturday, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the BBVA Bank at 10042 Coors Blvd. NW.
The items donated will then be sanitized.
— New Mexico Lobos (@UNMLOBOS) June 2, 2020
“It’s a big project,” Lenzmeier said. “There’s been a lot of work put into it. Save the Children Action Network, they’ve done some really cool stuff. We’re excited about it. … There are a bunch of people in this community who are in need of the supplies for kids and they are hurting and struggling right now. We’re just trying to do something to help.”
Albuquerque is a special place for Saltes and Lenzmeier, who played for the Lobos (2000-03) and is in his third coaching stop at UNM.
“I’ve lived in Albuquerque longer than I have lived in my hometown of Frisco, Texas,” said Lenzmeier, affectionately known to the Lobos as “Lenz.” “My wife (Kelsey) is a La Cueva grad. Her family is here. Both of my sons (Brooks, 8, and George, 5) were born here. This is a great place. It’s great to be back.”
Saltes has spoken to congress on behalf of the Save the Children Action Network. Last season, he was the only junior to be named a semifinalist for the Wuerffel Trophy, an award given annually to the college football player “who best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.”
He has also worked on suicide prevention at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where he also recently helped deliver food supplies and performed other volunteer work to aid families dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
He’s excited about the current projects with Save the Children Action Network and connecting with kids in the community.
“Being in Albuquerque, a lot of the young people look up to UNM athletes kind of like local celebrities,” Saltes said. “To get the athletes involved with the kids like that it’s pretty cool. It’s every sport.”