Page athlete to follow passion on Fort Lewis football team
Before inking his name to the Fort Lewis College football team Gabe Gomez had contemplating on attending a bevy of other schools that were interested in him.
A few of those offers were football scholarships from Texas and California, and as far as Minnesota. He even had a basketball offer from Northern New Mexico College.
He chose Fort Lewis based on its close proximity to his family’s home in LeChee, Arizona.
“It really came down to my parents and my family,” Gomez said. “I have some little brothers and they mean the world to me. I want them to catch a few of my games and it’s only a four-hour drive for them to watch me.”
Ironically, attending Fort Lewis wasn’t even on his radar at all. That all changed when his former high school football coach, Mitchell Stevens, suggested that Fort Lewis would be a good fit for him.
Gomez made contact with the coaches and at that point nothing was guaranteed.
“I sent them some film and the defensive coaches called me back and they offered,” he said. “I think the film really set it off for me.”
The Page High graduate said signing his letter of intent is a dream come true.
“It means everything for me,” said Gomez, who wants to major in business management and minor in kinesiology. “My family always stressed education and after my sophomore year I realized that I had the talent to go somewhere with it. That is when I told my parents that I wanted to play college ball.”
Since that epiphany, Gomez said he’s been working hard to fulfill his aspirations.
“All I’ve been doing is just grinding day-in and day-out,” he said. “It’s just crazy to see that this day has finally come.”
Gomez’s father, Al Lane, said he’s real proud that his son has the opportunity to play at the next level.
“He’s a great athlete and a great kid,” he said. “We’re blessed to have him and we’re really proud of him. Ever since he was a little kid we noticed that he an athletic ability.”
His wife, Vangie, concurred.
“He always had that potential in him,” she said. “We’ve seen it in him since we started him with T-ball and then he played city league. He did flag football and he started playing basketball.”
And despite showing great promise, Vangie said he didn’t get the support he needed while playing at the middle school level.
“I really don’t know but the coaches never really gave him a chance,” she said. “He didn’t play a whole lot and I felt like they weren’t really there for him.”
At the high school level, Gomez made the varsity football team as a freshman but he saw limited action. The following season, he was sidelined with a broken ankle, an injury he sustained at the start of the season.
His junior year, he played with a cast for a good part of the football season as he shattered his left hand.
“Those injuries set him back but he never gave up,” his mom said. “It made him stronger.”
Gomez’s dad said those injuries “were a blessing in disguise.”
“He learned a lot about himself and I think those injuries happed for a reason,” he said. “It made him a better athlete and a better man. He kept going and when life gets tough you have to keep plugging away. Gabe didn’t let that keep him down, he got back up and he just made the best of it.”
Like most athletes, Gomez said injuries are a byproduct of playing sports. Last summer he tore a ligament in his right ankle while playing in a championship game in a basketball tournament at Arizona State University.
That injury prevented him from competing in combine to possible make the national team in 2019 after he got an invite by taking part in another combine in Phoenix earlier that year.
“When I got there some of those dudes had Division I football offers and those guys had some private trainers,” Gomez said of the combine in the Valley. “I was a Native kid from LeChee going against 4-star, 5-star athletes and I had nothing to lose so I just balled it out.
“I did that and I got an invite back to another combine camp in Houston to try and make the national team,” he said. “I didn’t get a chance to go because I got hurt. Not going to Houston is the only thing I regret in my whole high school career because I didn’t get a chance to show the college recruiters what I had.”
As part of a close-knit family, Gomez said he drew inspiration from some close relatives he’s lost, which includes his late grandmother and uncle, who passed away months apart four years ago.
His grandmother, Desbah Tsinigine, who passed away at 98 years-old encouraged Gomez to pursue an education.
He received that same message from his uncle, Alan Tsinigine, as he lost his life two months after his mom passed.
To help him through the grieving process, he used sports as an outlet to cope with the losses he endured.
“It was tough on me and when that all happened sports took affect in my life,” he said. “When I was playing sports I really didn’t think about their deaths. I always pictured them watching over me. That is why I took sports so serious.”
Besides his grandmother and uncle, Gomez lost an older brother, Lexie Sheppard, while he was growing up.
“He was a hard-core team roper,” Gomez said. “When I was younger I used to travel with him to rodeos and I wanted to be a cowboy. He ended up passing away and when that happened I was really sad.”
Gomez said he tried to get back into rodeo but the pain was too much to overcome so he decided to give football and basketball a try even though he wasn’t as good.
As a well-rounded two-sport athlete, Gomez said he’s contacted the men’s basketball coach at Fort Lewis and he’s hoping to play both sports collegiately.
“They told me that it could be a possibility,” he said.
Of the two sports, Gomez says he doesn’t favor one over the other.
“I really didn’t take that into account,” he asserted. “I was asked about that by another reporter and I just laughed about that.
“I worked really hard to do both sports,” he continued. “When I did the workouts during the summers, I really didn’t think of them as work.”