Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

‘Football saved my life’: The Doodles Quinones story

Jeff Codevilla
Doodles Quinones, a safety on the BHSU football team, used football to transcend a troubled childhood.

The sun beats down on the forest green turf and the crowd is roaring. Another weekend, another football game – Doodles’ favorite time of the week. On the field with him is his brother as they experience the epic highs and lows of football together. The whistle blows, it’s time to run.

Nathaniel “Doodles” Quinones has played safety on the Black Hills State University’s football team for three seasons.

“Football saved my life,” Doodles said. “I’ve said it before but it’s true, I wouldn’t be where I am today without football.”

Doodles moved to Glendale, Ariz., at nine years old. After a year of living in Glendale, Doodles, his brother Nic and his dad were homeless. They lived in a trailer behind a used car lot – Nic and Doodles shared a bed while their father slept on the couch. The trailer had no running water or electricity, so Doodles and Nic had to be creative.

“There was a McDonald’s across the street,” Doodles said. “We’d go there to use their water, but sometimes they’d give us free food. We were always pretty hungry, so we appreciated it.”

Now, Doodles can’t really stomach their food anymore – except their breakfast.

Doodles’ dad struggled with drugs for as long as he could remember, and he was in and out of jail until Doodles was a sophomore in high school.

“He always supported us though, made sure we were fed, had a roof over our heads and everything – he’s my biggest role model,” Doodles said.

When Doodles was old enough to start playing football, he and his brother joined the football team at their high school, Cactus High School.

“I fell in love with the game,” Doodles said. “The best part about it is the brotherhood on the team, it’s like I’ve picked up families
along the way.”

Doodles also found family within his high school football coach. After a drug incident that resulted in his father’s arrest, Doodles’ high school football coach opened his home to the brothers, taking legal guardianship of them.

“He was more than a coach to me,” Doodles said. “I always called him coach, but he was sort of like a dad.”

While Doodles was still in high school, his dad went to rehab and was able to support Doodles. He showed up to high school games as “Cobra Man,” as Cactus High School’s mascot was the Cobra which was a full body armor suit composed of black and blue plates. The mask and the cape were self-made, bedazzled and decorated for school spirit.

The community in Glendale was always supportive of Doodles and his family as spectators began to notice Doodles’ talent on the field. Doodles is a ball of energy. The way he darts across the field is almost inhuman. Safety is a defensive position, and Doodles is good at his job. He lunges at and tackles opponents with ease defending the offense. After a successful senior season, Doodles, alongside his brother, was recruited by Black Hills State University.

One key difference between South Dakota and Arizona is the weather, especially in the second half of the year. Sometimes, South Dakota gets feet of snow, winds up to 50 mph, and temperatures low as -30 degrees. The winters in sunny, sandy Arizona do not compare. The first time Doodles saw snow was his first winter in South Dakota – and after more than three years of living here, one would think the man would wear a coat – but instead he’ll show up in a tank-top, sweatpants and slip-on sandals.

Surprisingly there wasn’t much of a culture shock moving to South Dakota – the people of Spearfish are just as supportive as the people in Glendale. Doodles is popular, people around town know him, there are kids that wear his jerseys at football games and he’s a known figure on-campus at Black Hills State.

Every time Doodles walks on campus, he sees a friend. The sense of community found at BHSU is tight knit, it’s a small pond. It’s a big change coming from the city of Glendale to the town of Spearfish, but both places are filled with good-hearted people. Doodles has played at BHSU for three years, and although there is always an inflow and outflow of new teammates and classmates, Doodles always makes it a point to be friendly to everyone on campus.

Doodles can be seen around campus riding on his electric scooter, his iconic curly mane waving in the wind as he commutes to class from his apartment.

“The other day he rode with me to class on his scooter,” a friend of Doodles said. “Like when we got to Meier I said goodbye and he just zoomed off and I was so happy that he stayed slow to talk to me.” For some, it may be difficult to move so far away and immerse themselves in a whole new community, but not for Doodles.

Moving thousands of miles away from home wasn’t a jarring experience for Doodles. “I had Nic, and we’d always been in unstable situations, so we know how to adapt,” Doodles said. Nic was Doodles’ rock, and Doodle’s supported Nic. Doodles has always had a close relationship with his family, which remains true to this day – even with the thousands of miles between them. His father remains a big part of his life as well.

“Our relationship hasn’t changed since I moved away,” Doodles said. “We’ve always stayed close, and he’s always been my biggest supporter, even so far away.”

Doodles’ dad still comes to games in full armor, but now his armor is inspired by the Yellow Jacket that represents Black Hills State University. This persona is called “Captain Yellow-Jacket,” and he sports a garbage can lid shield with the iconic Sting mascot painted on it. Captain Yellowjacket is reminiscent of Cobra Man – the persona Doodles’ dad took on during high school games.

Doodles’ mom also remains an important part of his life as well. She is moving to Spearfish with thehelp of her son. When she came to visit with Doodles’ siblings, Doodles paid for their hotel rooms and helped with the down payment on the house they will be living in. Doodles is ecstatic that his mom and siblings are going to be close by. Fortunately for Doodles, family is always close by.

A few years ago, Doodles’ uncle Anthony played football at Black Hills State. Anthony was Doodles’ uncle, but he was only a few years older than Doodles. Doodles loves his family so it’s no surprise that he relishes the time he was able to spend on the field with his uncle. He also loves playing with his brother, who is just a year older but in the same academic year. They’ve always been close.

Doodles’ favorite part of playing football is finding family on the field in his teammates. “Brotherhood is hands down the best part of the game, my teammates are like my family,” Doodles said.

Doodles credits football for a lot of the opportunities he’s received. Living with his high school football coach and going to college are both instances where without football – Doodles would’ve been lost. He keeps a positive outlook, and heal ways has. At one point, however, he almost lost it all. Doodles nearly lost his eligibility to play due to his grades.

“My sophomore year they just really slipped,” Doodles said. “That was so stupid of me, I almost threw away all the opportunities I’d worked so hard for.” After a lot of effort and studying, Doodles passed his classes and was eligible for the next season. Doodles remains a safety for the Black Hills State Yellow Jackets.

“Football saved my life,” Doodles said. “I’ve said it a million times but it’s true, it took me off the streets and it sent me to college. It also gave me brotherhood on the field, I owe football what I am today.”