SHINING THROUGH: Pine Ridge native preparing for NFL Draft

A journey that began on the Pine Ridge Reservation could soon intersect with the 2021 NFL Draft for Teton Saltes.

PINE RIDGE, S.D. — A diamond in the rough.

A phrase that can certainly be said of Teton Saltes, who stands at six foot five inches tall and weighs over 320 pounds.

He grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation and now he’s got a chance to shine all way to the NFL.

With two weeks to go before the NFL Draft, he never thought he’d be in this position. Such is the attitude growing up in one of the poorest places in the nation.

“We watched NBA players and NFL players and senators and members of congress, and we’re like ‘man that’s cool but there’s no way a little kid like me from the reservation can make it that far,” Saltes said.

But his journey to the league actually began with his parents.

“They all played Division 1 Basketball and a little bit of professional and so me I thought, ‘you know ya, I’m going to be in the NBA,” Saltes said jokingly.

While he was in middle school, Teton’s then-single mother got into medical school,  and moved with her two sons to Arizona –  eventually landing in New Mexico.

At Valley High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Teton’s sport of choice was basketball.

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But, while waiting for his junior basketball season to start, he decided to try football, not knowing it would be a game-changer in so many ways.

After only six games, as a junior Teton started receiving full scholarship offers from division one schools, at least 15.

“The way it happened is really peculiar to say the least,” Saltes said. “It usually doesn’t happen that way, but it’s been a blessing.”

Saltes, who is an active member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, chose to accept a full ride to the University of New Mexico,  but kept coming back home to South Dakota to train at Pine Ridge through his college career.

During a training session at Lakota Tech High School, Teton told us he wants to continue giving back to his community,  serving as an example for the younger native generation.

“I want to be able to show them, you know, I grew up the same way that you grew up and in the same places and a lot of the same experiences and I was able to make it,” Saltes said.

A diamond that hopes to continue to outshine his surroundings.

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