MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota – Not many Native American high school students can say that they have played football in a professional-level stadium. However, that is not the case for athlete Jalen Herring (Mvskoke). On Dec. 11, 2022, Jalen Herring had the opportunity to play in the Indigenous Bowl. In this premier event, high school seniors of Native American descent from across the country can demonstrate their skills on the gridiron.
Even a month after the Bowl, Jalen Herring and his family were still excited over the experience. According to Jalen, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“It was awesome,” Jalen Herring said. “It’s not even just playing in the bowl; it’s all these other experiences I had while there.”
Those other experiences included meeting fellow native student-athletes from all over. Jalen Herring said he enjoyed learning about their cultures and forming bonds in the short time he participated in the Bowl.
This year’s event was hosted in the U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings. It was sponsored by the 7G Foundation, the National Football League (NFL), and the Minnesota Vikings. The four-day event included football clinics where participants worked with professional coaches and players to improve their skills on the field.
Jalen Herring played “both sides of the ball” at the Bowl, playing center and defensive tackle. His team, Bad Medicine, overcame the opposing Red Knights, winning the Bowl 33-16.
“Coming off the field, getting to know that we won, and just celebrating with the other guys, that was a great feeling, ” Jalen Herring said.
Among the other tribes represented at the Bowl, Jalen Herring’s heritage was on full display. After contacting the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, they provided him with a box of various Mvskoke brand items, including t-shirts, a flag, and, most meaningful, a letter from Principal Chief David Hill.
This was not the first time Jalen Herring participated in an exclusive event such as the Indigenous Bowl. Last spring Herring participated in the first Indigenous Football Combine in Phoenix with his brother, Cameron (Mvskoke).
Football has always played an integral role in the Herring household. It was significant for Jalen to experience this opportunity with his whole family, including his parents, Derek and Patrice.
Jalen’s next chapter
Born and raised in the Phoenix area, Jalen Herring currently attends Desert Vista High School and plays defensive tackle for their football team, the thunder. It’s a sport he has played and enjoyed watching with his family since he was young.
Patrice Herring has watched her son grow as a young man and a skilled athlete. She said Jalen puts just as much effort on the field as he does off the field. He volunteers with his church and works at Danzeisen Dairy, a local creamery.
In his final high school semester, Jalen continues pushing forward toward graduation. It can be a lot of work involving university applications and team tryouts.
“It’s a little stressful,” Patrice Herring said. “It’s also sentimental for me as a mom because I see him maturing, getting ready to go off to college, and leaving the house. It’s sad, but it’s exciting too.”
High school extracurricular activities like football can be a big commitment. However, according to Patrice Herring, that has not prevented her son from finding balance in sports and academics. He has excelled in both. He currently holds a 3.55 grade point average.
When asked about his next chapter, Jalen Herring said he plans to attend college. He’s already been accepted to New Mexico State University and is considering the University of Oklahoma and Baylor University.
Overall, Patrice Herring said her family had a positive experience with the Indigenous Bowl and would encourage other Native American high school seniors to apply for the next one.
“I felt so much pride, and I was so proud of him, and I was just so happy to be there,” Patrice Herring said. “You could see how proud they were of their Native heritage.”
The Indigenous Bowl welcomes donations. Those wishing to donate or even volunteer for the 2023 bowl can visit their official website.