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Idaho State University

Bengals' Quarterback Star On and Off the Field

By Emily Frandsen |

When Bengals starting quarterback Justin Arias isn't throwing touchdown passes, he can be found at the ISU School of Nursing, writing grants for research on using Geographic Information Systems to study obesity, or interviewing fellow athletes about their views on veganism.

Bengals' Quarterback Star On and Off the Field

On the field, Arias has led a renewal in Bengal pride as he led the football team to its best season in more than a decade. He threw a record-breaking 38 touchdown passes this season, led the nation in passing yards with 4,076 and earned first-team all-conference honors. Arias is a finalist for the Walter Peyton award, a national honor that will be announced Dec. 15.

Arias is expected to graduate in December with a master's degree in athletic administration. He has also worked as a Career Path Intern in Dean Mary Nies' office in the School of Nursing as a member of a grant-writing team that successfully secured a $50,000 grant to use GIS to study obesity rates in communities. Researchers hope to study obesity rates, and how they relate to information about nearby dining options, parks and other possible geographic markers.

"I was interested in seeing the process of actual research, and being a part of it," he said. "It was kind of like writing a thesis all over again."

In his master's thesis, titled "Perception and Prevalence of Vegetarianism and Veganism Among Student-Athletes," Arias interviewed athletes about how they perceive vegetarian teammates. What he found, he said, is a negative stigma surrounding these athletes. He hopes that, through his research, he can raise awareness about veganism.

"The overall feeling was that there was a negative stigma surrounding veganism and vegetarianism. Vegans often take a lot of heat for being different," Arias said. "However, being different isn't always bad."

Arias has also taken a different road as a student-athlete, earning both a bachelor's degree in sociology and a master's degree in physical education during his time at Idaho State.

A native of Agoura Hills, California, Arias came to Idaho State University from College of the Canyons in 2011. Once he found ISU, Arias knew he had found his niche. He appreciated the people he met at the University, and decided he could adapt to the change from sunny California weather to cold Idaho winters.

"They were my first option, football-wise," he said, "and I've really enjoyed getting to know everyone here. I really love the people here, my teammates and people in my classes and in the community."

When his time at ISU is finished, Arias says it is the people he will miss the most.

"The relationships that I have formed are long lasting," Arias said. "You can feel the support through the relationships you create here at ISU."