Bronco Salute to New Mexico State Football

From halfback Jerry Nuzum to defensive back Davon House, the New Mexico State Aggies have featured many great football players. Their city is awesome and their school well recognized for its academic success. BroncoCountry salutes you New Mexico State!

(Editor's Note:  This is part of a continuing series of tributes to WAC schools as Boise State completes its final season in the conference.  The series is meant to spread good will throughout the conference, highlight the rich heritage at member schools and to thank the WAC members for having Boise State in their conference for the last ten years.)

New Mexico State is located in Las Cruces, New Mexico at the foot of the 9,000-foot Organ Mountains and along the banks of the meandering Rio Grande River .  Las Cruces is 42 miles from El Paso , Texas .  Las Cruces features sunshine 350 days of the year.  

Las Cruces is New Mexico 's second largest city behind Albuquerque .  The fertile Mesilla Valley has ideal conditions for agriculture. Pecans, cotton and chile are vital to the area's economy.  Stahmann Farms is one of the world's largest producers of pecans.  White Sands National Monument , featuring 275 square miles of great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand (the world's largest gypsum dune field)  is one hour away. 

Sunset Magazine noted Las Cruces as one of the 20 Best Towns of the Future.  It is the 11th-fastest growing area in the nation with a current population of 85,000.  Inc. Magazine listed Las Cruces as one of America 's Top 20 Boomtowns.  Forbes awarded the city as one of three top small metro areas to do business and Money Magazine lists Las Cruces as one of Top 8 Places to Retire.  Las Cruces recently celebrated its 150th anniversary.   

New Mexico State was founded in 1888 and currently has an enrollment of 16,428. New Mexico State's College of Engineering is ranked in the top half of the nation by U.S. News & World Report's in their study of the Best Graduate Schools.  The Aggies also have the distinction of being ranked in the top third in the country in Forbes Magazine's list of America 's Best Colleges.  New Mexico State ranked 47th out of 258 schools by Washington Monthly for contribution to the public good.  The ranking is based on Aggie students' social mobility, research and service to the community.  

The Aggies began playing New Mexico in 1894 in one of the longest-running rivalries in the nation.  New Mexico State played in the Border Conference from 1931-1961, compiling a 31-10-6 record from 1934-1938.  They were invited to the first Sun Bowl in 1936 where they tied powerful Hardin-Simmons 14-14.  College Hall of Fame Coach Warren Woodson took over in 1958, having previously coached at Hardin-Simmons.  In his second season at the helm, Woodson guided the Aggies to a second Sun Bowl appearance, a victory over North Texas .   

New Mexico State enjoyed their best season in 1960 when they were 11-0, with a 20-13 victory over Utah State in the Sun Bowl and a national ranking of #17 in the Associated Press poll.  Woodson won Coach of the Year honors in leading New Mexico State to their perfect season.  The Aggies were led by All-American halfback Pervis Atkins and quarterback Charley Johnson, Sun Bowl Most Valuable Player in both 1959 and 1960.  Johnson is still the only player to win MVP honors in the same bowl in back-to-back seasons.   

Johnson, who became a star player in the National Football League, also completed his doctorate in chemical engineering.  After his NFL career, Johnson returned to his alma mater to become a Professor and later Department Head of the Chemical Engineering department.  Johnson was appointed as the interim football coach in 2008 while the school was searching for a replacement for Hal Mumme.  

New Mexico State became an independent in 1962 and Woodson had a great coaching career through 1967.  However, he had a contentious relationship with the school's administration, which invoked a clause requiring state employees to retire at age 65.  Woodson was forced to step down despite a 7-2-1 record in 1967 because of this newly-passed requirement.  Since then, the Aggies have not done near as well and some fans call their performance "the Woodson Curse".  In the 42 seasons since Woodson was fired, the Aggies have had four winning seasons, two conference titles (1976 and 1978) and their 49-year bowl drought is the longest in the Football Bowl Subdivision.  

New Mexico State joined the Missouri Valley Conference in 1971, the Big West Conference in 1983, the Sun Belt in 2001 and became a member of the Western Athletic Conference in 2005.   

Running back Denvis Manns (1995-1998) became the third player in NCAA history to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons, joining Pittsburgh 's Tony Dorsett (1973-1976) and Amos Lawrence of North Carolina (1977-1980).  Three other players have since joined this list:  Ron Dayne of Wisconsin (1996-1999), Cedric Benson of Texas (2001-2004) and New Mexico 's DonTrell Moore (2002-2005).  

Manns was the co-offensive Big West Conference MVP in 1998 after rushing for a school-record 1,469 yards.  As a junior, Manns was a first team all-league choice after rushing for 1,017 yards despite missing a game due to injury and playing hobbled three games.  Manns led the Big West as a sophomore with 1,086 yards while earning All-Big West honors.  Manns rushed for 1,120 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman to lead all freshmen in the nation.  Manns ran for 4,692 yards (5.3 avg.) and 28 touchdowns in his fabulous Aggie career.  

There have been 43 Aggies who have gone on to play in the NFL.  These are some of the New Mexico State greats in the pros:  

 

Ø      Halfback Jerry Nuzum (1945-1951) was drafted in the third round of the NFL Draft by Pittsburgh .  Nuzum had 249 career carries for 930 yards and seven touchdowns and had 14 receptions for 303 yards (21.6 avg.) and three scores.  Nuzum enjoyed his best season when he rushed for 611 yards (4.4 avg.) and five touchdowns, caught four passes for 81 yards and two TD's and returned 10 kickoffs for an 18.4 average.  

Ø      Running Back Pervis Atkins (1958-1960) ran a 9.7 100 and let the nation in rushing (7.5 yards per carry), scoring (107 points) and punt returns (17.7 average) in 1960.  Atkins' career average of 8.1 yards per carry still is a school record.  Atkins also holds school marks for career punt return average (15.1) and single-season punt return average (21.8 in 1960).  (The photo shows Atkins returning a kickoff 98 yards against Arizona State .)   

Ø      Placekicker/punter Danny Villanueva (1960-1967) played with the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys.  Villanueva had 488 career punts for a 42.8 average and booted 85-of-160 field goals.  He averaged 45.5 yards per kick in 1962, 45.4 in 1963 and 44.1 in 1964.  In his rookie season, Villanueva connected on 12-19 field goals.  In 1966, he hit 17-of-31 field goal tries and 52-56 extra points for 107 points.  Villaneuva is ranked #51 in NFL history with a career punting average of 42.75.  

Ø      Quarterback Charley Johnson (1961-1975) is perhaps the most famous New Mexico State player to go on to the NFL.  Johnson played 15 years with the St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Oilers and Denver Broncos.  Johnson had 1,737 career completions in 3,392 attempts for 24,410 yards and 170 touchdowns in his NFL career.  He enjoyed his best season in 1963 when he was 222-423 for 3,280 yards and 28 TD's.  Johnson ranks #72 in career completions, #56 in passing yards and #46 in career TD passes.  

Ø      Lineman Bobby Kelly (1961-1968) played on both the offensive and defensive lines for Houston , Kansas City and Cincinnati of the NFL.  

Ø      Halfback Bob Gaiters (1961-1963) was drafted in the second round of the 1961 NFL Draft by the New York Giants.  Gaiters had 159 career carries for 653 yards (4.1 avg.) and six touchdowns, caught 16 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown and had a 25.5 kickoff return average.  

Ø      Defensive tackle Walter Johnson (1965-1977).  Johnson is one of three New Mexico State players in the College Football Hall of Fame.  After his Aggie career, Johnson was drafted in the second round of the 1965 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns.  Johnson played 13 seasons with the Browns and had 11 fumble recoveries and two interceptions in his NFL Career.  

Ø      Defensive tackle Ruby Jackson was selected in the fourth round of the 1969 NFL Draft.  

Ø      Defensive end Joe Schmiesing (1968-1974) was drafted in the fourth round of the 1968 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.  Schmiesing played mostly with the Cardinals in his seven-year career.  

Ø      Ron James (1968-1971) ran for 3,885 yards (4.8 avg.) and 33 touchdowns at New Mexico State .  James holds the school record with a 25.9 kickoff return average for his career.  James was drafted in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by Philadelphia and played for the Eagles through 1975.  He carried 328 times for 1,215 yards (3.7 avg.) and four touchdowns, had 102 receptions for 747 yards and two scores and had a 23.5 average returning kickoffs.  

Ø      Placekicker/punter Roy Gerela is another famous Aggie alumnus that went on to the NFL.  Gerela played for 11 years (1969-1979), mostly for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Gerela connected on 165-of-266 field goal tries in his career and scored 817 points.  Gerela still ranks #48 in career field goal attempts.  In 1972, Gerela booted 28-of-41 field goals and hit 35-36 extra points for 119 points.  The following season, Gerela hit 29-of-43 field goal attempts and 36-37 extra points for 127 points.  

Ø      Defensive end Andy Dorris (1973-1981) played for several teams in his NFL Career, mostly with the Houston Oilers.  

Ø      Running back Jim Germany was selected in the second round of the 1975 NFL Draft.  Germany went on to win five Grey Cup rings in the Canadian Football League.  

Ø      Wide receiver Duriel Harris (1976-1985) was selected in the third round of the 1976 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins.  Harris played for Miami , Cleveland and Dallas in his ten-year NFL career and caught 302 passes for 5,055 yards (16.7 avg.) and 20 touchdowns.  In 1981, Harris had 53 receptions for 911 yards (17.2 avg.) and two touchdowns.  Harris also returned 56 kickoffs for a 25.3 career average.  

Ø      Cornerback Walt Williams (1977-1983) was drafted in the second round of the 1977 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.  Williams played with Detroit , Minnesota and Chicago of the NFL's "Black & Blue" division.  He had four career interceptions, one returned for a touchdown.  

Ø      Quarterback Joe Pisarcik (1977-1984) played for the New York Giants and Philadelphia .  Pisarcik hit 425-898 passes in his NFL career for 5,552 yards and 24 touchdowns.  

Ø      Linebacker Leo Barker (1979-1983) had 378 tackles in his New Mexico State career.  Barker was drafted in the seventh round of the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, where he played until 1991.  Barker had three interceptions in his pro career.  

Ø      Linebacker Fredd Young had 393 career tackles at Las Cruces from 1980-1983.  Young was drafted in the third round of the 1984 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.  Young was a star with the Seahawks and later played with Indianapolis .  Young had 21 career sacks and three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown.   

Ø      Darryl Ford (1984-1986 and 1988) is the school record holder with 511 career tackles.  

Ø      Joe Campbell (1984-1987) had 19 sacks in 1986 and holds the career sacks record with 26.  

Ø      Wide receiver Bobby Humphrey (1984-1990) played for the New York Jets and Denver Broncos.  Humphrey had 14 catches for 206 yards and a touchdown, had five interceptions as a cornerback and also returned 130 kickoffs for a 22.9 career average and two touchdowns.  

 

New Mexico State once accumulated 721 yards of total offense at UNLV in 1995.  Quarterback Chase Holbrook holds the school record for total offense with 4,541 yards in 2006 and 11,577 in his career.    Holbrook finished with 1,087 completions in 1,567 attempts (69.4%) for 11,846 yards and 85 touchdowns.  

The top receivers at New Mexico State have been Chris Williams (2005-2008) with 246 catches and 32 touchdowns, A.J. Harris (2005-2008), with 269 catches for 2,561 yards and 16 scores and Luscious Davis (1992-1995),  who had 147 catches for 2,769 yards (18.8 avg.) and 31 touchdowns.  

Abelardo Alba (1965-1967) and Hartwell Menefee (1961 and 1964-65) are the co-record holders with 16 career interceptions.  Jimmy Cottrell set a school record with 179 tackles in 2005 while Sam Dickey had 169 in 1989.  

In 1999, the Aggies had a landmark win when they went to Tempe and shocked #22 Arizona State 35-7.  It was the seventh win over Arizona State in Aggie history.  New Mexico State downed the Sun Devils in four consecutive years (1935-1938) and also beat them in the 1960 perfect season.   

The Aggies play at Aggie Memorial Stadium, sporting a capacity of 30,343.  UCLA Defensive Coordinator DeWayne Walker was hired last season and he is in his second year transforming the program. 


Bronco Country Top Stories