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Brothers on the BHSU football team overcome homelessness to play college ball

Nicc and Nathaniel Quinones have stories from off the gridiron that inspire resilience
Published: Sep. 19, 2020 at 12:04 AM CDT
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SPEARFISH, S.D. (KOTA) - Everyone has a backstory that’s formed our personality through our unique relationships and experiences in life. And those stories help make us who we are as people.

There are two stories on the Black Hills State football team, unlike any other.

Meet Nicc and Nathaniel “Doodles” Quinones. They are a pair of safeties on the Black Hills State football team, brothers, and first-generation college students.

“No duo, at any state, at any college, has what we got-- the chemistry we got.”

The pair are from Phoenix, with a childhood that was not picture perfect.

“We were homeless for a long time,” said Nathaniel. “And then my dad, he got addicted to drugs, and things just went downhill from there. We overcame a lot, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

In between staying with friends and sleeping in parks, the brothers spent a lot of time at McDonald’s.

“It had free WiFi and we had a tablet that we shared like one tablet then that we won at a school contest,” said Nathaniel.

“Going to school was hard too because we didn’t have phones, so like it was hard to wake up,” said Nicc. “Going to school, we would always be late, so like we didn’t go to school really in middle school.”

Eventually, the brothers stayed with their assistant high school football coach, Larry Harrison, and his wife LeShawn, who the brothers describe as second parents.

They helped the brothers get in contact with Black Hills State first-year coach Josh Breske.

“You know, they tell us a little bit about these guys, what’s their back story,” said Breske. “And then, immediately you find out, holy cow! These guys have had a rough, rough upbringing and have really pushed through that and have been resilient through all of the trials they’ve had in life. It made me want them more-- I love having those types of players on the football team. It really impacts, you know, the other people around them, and makes other people realize how thankful they are for the opportunity.”

After a recruiting visit to Spearfish, during a snowstorm, Breske offered the brothers scholarships.

“They came up for their official visit during a snow storm and they loved it,” said Breske. “Offered them both scholarships, and the rest is history.”

“I was happy because we got the same offer, and I was like, let’s go to the same school,” said Nicc.

The brothers love Spearfish-- the people driving by practice and honking in support, their teammates, who they say are so supportive-- many finding out about their back story in a team bonding exercise.

“But I put Nicc up on the hot seat and you know, his teammates will ask questions about ‘who’s your favorite rapper,’ 'what’s your favorite food, favorite color '” said Breske. “And we’re trying to get deeper, so then, the coaches will be like, ‘what’s the hardest thing you’ve been through in life?’ And then you get the story. So, I’m watching the faces in the crowd and just to see some of the guys on the team who haven’t been through a whole lot in their lives yet, oh man, it really opened their eyes.”

Through everything, football has been their constant and Nicc and Doodles said never to give up, and that no matter what, you can get through it.

“Don’t take anything for granted, live your life,” said Doodles.

“It’s a blessing,” said Nicc.

The Yellow Jackets will have five games in the fall and games in the spring -- which Breske said will likely allow freshmen to see some playing time. He thinks Nicc and Doodles will contribute this year because of their high football IQ.

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