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Pete stands tall for NMSU Aggies

Pete stands tall for NMSU Aggies

(Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on New Mexico State football player ShiYazh Pete.)

By Lee Begaye
Special to the Times

ALBUQUERQUE – ShiYazh Pete stands tall at over 6 feet 8 inches. His imposing figure dominates the scene, either in a huddle or along the football field’s sideline. However, Pete’s journey remains somewhat unknown.

Last weekend showcased Pete’s football potential. As a redshirt sophomore, he’s been a crucial part of the New Mexico State Aggies’ success this season, starting in all fifteen games at left tackle. While NMSU faced a setback in the New Mexico Bowl, it concluded the season with an impressive 10-5 record, securing the runner-up spot in Conference USA.

Pete’s contribution has been nothing short of enormous. In football terms, the left tackle, especially on the blind side, is the quarterback’s key protector. Pete’s excellence in this role earned him first-team all-conference recognition in Conference USA.

Pete’s competitive spirit traces back to his early days in Missoula, Montana, where he engaged in judo and martial arts, earning a yellow belt. His parents, Natani Pete, an Army Captain in the Army Reserves, and his mother Geraldine Pete, an educator, were both working professionals whose career opportunities took them elsewhere. Young ShiYazh was forced to leave Montana and his judo behind.

Eventually the family settled in the Cove – Red Valley, Arizona area. Shiyazh embarked on his football journey at Shiprock High School during his sophomore year, having transferred from Red Valley/Cove High School. His switch stemmed from a lack of sports activities, especially football, at his previous school. His passion for physical sports, cultivated through martial arts, led him to choose football over basketball.

“Basketball wasn’t his taste of sports,” Geraldine Pete said. “He can dunk but he doesn’t have interest in it.

“We knew early on because he was competitive at an early age,” his mother added. “He excelled at martial arts and he liked the hard impact nature of the sport. So, football became his niche.”

Under Shiprock head coach Anthony Clah’s guidance, Pete honed his skills on both the offensive and defensive lines.

“I was talking to kids in general just about having dreams and moving on and I remember talking to Shiyazh as a sophomore that he has a potential to play college football,” said Clah, “he has to work hard at it and be willing to make sacrifices and make himself better.”

In his junior year, Shiyazh continued to develop his skills, starting on both the offensive and defensive lines.

“His junior year, he got a little taller and filled out a little more,” remembered coach Clah, “and I believe we did have him starting, and if not starting, he was always in and out of the game.”

The Chieftains finished that year with a 5-5 record.

Shiyazh faced an unusual senior year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. High school seasons were canceled, and NMSU had its 2020 season wiped out (the Aggies would play two games, both at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, during the spring semester of 2021).

Similarly, the Shiprock Chieftains played in the spring of 2021, finishing 3-2 in a five-game schedule in March and April. This left Pete’s parents little time to prepare recruitment material.

They reached out to various universities, including the University of New Mexico, Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, the University of Montana, and Fort Lewis College. Natani highlighted the challenges in fulfilling Shiyazh’s dream to play college football.

“He told me his dream to continue to play college football,” he said. “So, we went to the coaches and to a few others, but besides coach Clah, there aren’t many resources available on the reservation to promote kids to play college football.”

When asked if they attended football camps, Natani added, “We really didn’t know those types of activities existed at the time. Now we do. It might have helped his cause.”

Interest came from Division II and III schools, especially Western New Mexico. New Mexico State, showing interest in signing Shiyazh as a walk-on, provided an opportunity that he embraced, signing him on April 30, 2021.


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