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UA assistant professor to attend Super Bowl with Larry Fitzgerald

tillman scholar Jameson Lopez .JPG
Posted at 8:27 PM, Jan 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-31 02:36:36-05

TUCSON, Ariz. -- An Arizona Cardinals legend is helping a Tucson man's dream come true.

University of Arizona assistant professor, Jameson Lopez, is going to Super Bowl LIII thanks to Larry Fitzgerald.

Lopez is a Tillman scholar, and he met Fitzgerald on a tour of Cardinal's stadium with other Tillman scholars.

"For me it was a surreal experience," Lopez said.

He was awarded the scholarship in 2015.

"I just felt really humbled," Lopez said. "To be part of that collective group of people."

Lopez has another connection to Pat Tillman as well.

He led a tank group in Operation New Dawn, during the Iraq war.

"For me, that calling, that warrior tradition has always been there," Lopez said. "You can see it in somebody else. To me, looking at Pat Tillman, he had that warrior spirit in him."

When he returned from overseas, his life had a new calling: helping other indigenous students like himself attend college.

"Most of my research focuses on indigenous college access as well as persistence," Lopez said.

He said his calling came from a need in his own tribe. The Quechan nation in California.

Lopez said in his tribe there was only one Quechan teacher and no administrators from the tribe.

"Who is teaching our kids?" Lopez asked.

That question led him to the University of Arizona, where he now dedicates his life to getting indigenous people into college, and helping them succeed in their education.

"It's a natural bridge to help out community members enter into college, and then get those degrees, and go back into the community and teach our children," Lopez said.

Lopez said, he was inspired by his own parents.

His mother and father taught at a small tribal college, and he said he wants to help other indigenous students the way his mother helped hundreds of students find a love of education.

He says, he wants to fill the gap for the next generation of native students.

As for now, Lopez is getting some extra work done so he can enjoy the trip of a lifetime with his dad.

"It's a really special moment for me to be able to share that with my dad," Lopez said.

He said even though the Cardinals aren't playing in the Super Bowl he'll be wearing the jerseys of his two favorite players during his weekend in Atlanta: Pat Tillman, and Larry Fitzgerald.