University of New Mexico offensive lineman Teton Saltes did his best to be secretive about winning the Wuerffel Trophy that he didn’t even tell his family even after he found out on Monday.
Saltes, a Valley High alumnus, wanted his family to find out the big news on Thursday night with the rest of the nation during the College Football Awards show on ESPN. It was an exciting time on camera when Saltes was honored with the award presented to the Football Bowl Subdivision player who best combines exemplary community service with leadership achievement on and off the field.
Off camera, it was emotional for Saltes’ family, including his grandparents and mother, viewing from South Dakota, and father, watching from Arizona. They appeared on camera during Saltes’ interview with ESPN.
“After the camera cut off they were all bawling and crying,” Saltes said during a virtual press conference after the awards show. “They’re more happy than I am about it. As they should be. It goes back to how I was raised and how I was brought up. If they didn’t instill those values and show me that path and give me the tools I wouldn’t be where I am at today. I’m happy that they’re happy.”
The values that Saltes’ family instilled in him led him to become involved with community service that includes suicide prevention, children literacy and bullying. He also volunteered his service to help distribute food and medicine for his native Oglala Lakota tribe during the summer and when the tribe was dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
Also this season, Saltes was voted as the 2020 Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team Captain for his community service contributions.
“It was awesome that they chose me to join the Wuerffel family,” said Saltes, who became the first major award winner in the history of Lobo Football. “I’m excited to see how we can hopefully partner with the past winners. There are so many avenues that can open up.”
In addition to his community service, Saltes said he will focus on training in his attempt to take his game to the next level, the NFL.
It was a different type of awards show on Thursday, as it was all done virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. Saltes said he felt nervous preparing to speak on camera from the Tow Diehm facility next to University Stadium. He was happy that everything went well and he was proud he won the award.
“I don’t think there is anybody more deserving of this award,” said UNM coach Danny Gonzales, who also appeared on camera during the Saltes interview on ESPN. “I love when I hear him say that, ‘It’s not about me, it’s about the work I’ve done and people appreciating that.’ He has devoted himself to community service, not only for his tribe, but for his community and for our football team.”