Tomow never is going to be an All-American player for the Winona
State University football team. In fact, his playing time as a
wide receiver has been sparse the past three seasons.
impact as a Native American, however, reaches far beyond the Maxwell
Field end zones.
who grew up on a reservation near Shawano, Wis., as a member of
the Menominee Tribe, has influenced far bigger things than the outcome
of a football game.
has changed lives.
22-year-old senior will be honored at halftime of today's WSU vs.
Minnesota-Duluth game. He's admittedly humbled, and moved, by being
named the Menominee Tribe's Man of Influence for 2009.
him, his family and those who know him, this means more than an
all-conference, all-region or all-America football award.
am definitely humbled by it and can take a lot of pride in it,"
Tomow said. "I have never been one to do things for recognition."
understand Tomow, you have to step back to his early years, his
growing years, the formative years of his life. Years where his
mother, Cheryl Wynos, was raising three kids by age 21, and eventually
seeing that number grow to six.
doing it in a three-bedroom mobile home.
on the reservation does not compare to what most of Tomow's other
Winona State teammates were experiencing. There was no Pop Warner
football or Little League baseball.
up, I really didn't have anything to compare it to. I know how hard
my parents, my mom, had to work to give us the things we had,"
said Tomow, the second-oldest child whose mother and father split
when he was 4. "If we had financial problems, she did a great
job of not letting us know it."
attended public grade school but struggled in many areas, including
discipline. He then went to school on the reservation and did an
had a hard time (early in school), but after I switched him over
to the tribal school, he did a 360," Wynos said. "After
the second grade it was amazing how much of a change he made."
the reservation, however, there were many challenges, Wynos said.
on the reservation, your kids have to deal with a lot of things,
as I'm sure other kids do, too," Wynos said. "The gangs,
the alcohol, the drugs. And the peer pressure is so bad."
of this infiltrated Tomow's head or his body. He stood firm and
walked a different path.
have kept my girls involved in the culture with dance. Alan was
a traditional dancer," Wynos said. "When he was 13 - it
is an honor to receive even one eagle's feather - he received the
whole bustle of feathers."
was one more example of Alan choosing the right path.
don't know if everybody thinks like this, but I don't want to make
bad decisions," Tomow said. "I never drank before, and
I never smoked or any of that. I don't plan on it.
want my brothers and sisters to think, that if anything bad happens,
they don't have to do that. I want that (being straight) is OK for
them. When they get in high school and their friends pressure them
or maybe they they feel the urge to do it, I want them to remember,
'Alan didn't do it. It's OK not to do it.'"
a pure lifestyle is tough in high school, but it may be even more
challenging in college. Tomow has stood his ground, and his teammates
- and his coaches - respect him for it, WSU coach Tom Sawyer said.
is so positive to see the respect they have given him for who he
is. To be 100 percent straight - tobacco-free, alcohol-free - and
not to fall to the pressure, it is very difficult," Sawyer
he has done outside of football with his life is going to have a
far greater impact on himself, and others, than most of us can imagine.
He is a model student."
a well-liked teammate. Tomow doesn't see the field often for WSU,
but when he does his teammates are behind him.
would help explain why after he caught a seemingly meaningless 12-yard
pass late in a 70-7 rout of Minnesota-Crookston two weeks ago, the
Warriors sideline erupted.
to Winona, however, was a long and challenging road.
order to have a better chance at attending college, Cheryl and Alan
had a tough decision to make in Alan's teenage years. They decided
to send him to high school off the reservation.
culture shock of me going to school on the reservation with 99.9
percent Native Americans to all of a sudden going to Shawano where
there is probably 5 percent Native Americans at the high school,
that was tough," Alan said.
was probably as tough of an adjustment as I have had to make, leaving
all of my friends behind at home and knowing things were going to
be different from that day on. The things I was going to learn,
the things they were going to learn, was going to be different.
I went to a smaller (reservation) school, I thought that everything
I was doing and the way I thought, I assumed it was normal. To get
out into a bigger culture, at the bigger school, there are a lot
of different views and attitudes."
day, Alan drove by the reservation high school on his way to Shawano
High School. Every day he thought about what he was leaving behind
and the new world he was entering.
day he was determined to make good decisions.
grew up in a very hard place, and when I think about where he is
at and what he has done, it is amazing," Wynos said. "I
raised six kids in a three-bedroom mobile home, and none of them
didn't take the outgoing Tomow long to adjust to a public high school.
He was voted class president his sophomore, junior and senior years.
As a senior, he ranked 16th out of 260 students.
Tomow was on his way to making a difference in the world.
Winona State, he has continued on that path. An exercise and sports
science major, he is on target to graduate in May 2010. He plans
to continue his education and earn a master's degree.
between his college years he returns to the reservation. For two
years, he headed a program on the reservation where 100 people,
ages 14 to 20, were part of a job training program. They were put
in entry level jobs throughout the community.
(Native American) is definitely a culture that needs to be shown
some direction. That has been a goal of mine for a long time, to
change the culture where I live," Tomow said. "Make coming
to college, setting goals and working hard as reachable goals. I
want that to be the norm."