Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

Meet Five Tommie Football Players From Around the Country

It’s time for the Pioneer Football League champions to start defending their title. St. Thomas officially kicks off the season with its home opener on Saturday, Sept. 2, hosting Black Hills State University.

The Tommies are coming off a historic 2022 season, in which they won their first Pioneer Football League title in just their second season in the conference.

This year’s roster features an impressive mix of student-athletes from Minnesota and beyond, with about half of the team hailing from outside the land of 10,000 lakes.

Before the Tommies take to the field in St. Paul, get to know five student-athletes from around the country who are expected to play a key role in this season’s success:

Gabriel Abel

Running back (sophomore)

Hometown: Trenton, New Jersey

Major: Psychology

Pregame rituals: I just stretch and listen to a bunch of Kodak and get in my vibe.

Thing that surprised you most about Minnesota: The people. The people here are like overly nice, kind of a little scary at first. But you get used to it, the Minnesota nice.

Why did you pick St. Thomas: I had a great host for my official visit (Branden Smith) and it just was a great family atmosphere. I could see this as home.

Favorite campus meal: Chicken tenders from Scooter’s

Yusef Leak

Defensive back (junior)

Hometown: Orlando, Florida

Major: Criminal justice

Road game must-haves: Gotta have my Cheez-Its, my watermelon Sour Patch Kids, and my Bible.

Thing that surprised you most about Minnesota: The scenery. I didn’t think there was this much water in Minnesota with all the lakes and the Mississippi River.

Dream superpower: To be able to go invisible. Because if I don’t want to be seen, I could just go invisible and go about my day.

Favorite campus meal: Chipotle chicken sandwich from T’s

Andrew McElroy

Wide receiver (junior)

Hometown: Bolingbrook, Illinois

Major: Data analytics

Road game must-haves: I always bring my Bible. And I have my squishmallow – which is like a real super soft pillow and they’re usually different animals.

Thing that surprised you most about Minnesota: The people. Minnesota nice is real. I’d never been to Minnesota, so I didn’t know what to expect coming here. Everyone always asks how may day is going, always.

Dream superpower: Teleportation. I could get anywhere at anytime, see the world.

Favorite campus meal: French toast at The View

Amari Powell

Quarterback (sophomore)

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Major: Business finance

Pregame rituals: Biggest thing is pray and then just yell to get some emotion out.

Favorite team memory: We had a practice where it was an actual blizzard, so being in California, I’m not used to a lot of snow. It was a pretty awesome experience.

Dream superpower: Super speed. I feel like you could do everything with super speed. You could run back in time. You could technically be invisible, so obviously speed.

Favorite campus meal: Taco bowl at Northsider

Branden Smith

Defensive back (junior)

Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

Major: Peace and justice studies

Road game must-have: I have to have my dice. My dad gave them to me when I was in ninth grade to really show that Las Vegas is a great city and a lot of people may look at it wrong. But you should be proud of where you come from.

Favorite team memory: Definitely the conference championship last year. In high school I didn’t do a lot of winning, so being on that winning team and getting that ring was the best thing.

Thing that surprised you most about Minnesota: The cold! You know, I came here thinking that I would like the cold. It’s hot in Vegas, so I thought, let’s try something new. But I got here, and I got frostbite on three fingers.

Favorite campus meal: Zesty melt from T’s