It's Football time!!!!

Senior linebacker Tim Patrick's eyes held an intense gaze as he spoke. "That first hit is gonna be sweet," Patrick, a 6-foot-1, 227-pound senior, said Monday. "I feel like I could play right now. I'm ready to put my helmet and pads on." Patrick stood outside New Mexico State University's weight room as fellow teammates streamed in and out of the building to be weighed and measured. Soon, all of the Aggies were on the practice field behind the weight room running through a series of drills.

Despite the lack of hitting, Patrick admitted the opening day of practice is tough. The coaches put the players through a shuttle run, a series of sprints and other drills to test the player's level of conditioning.

"Some guys probably hate this day, but I don't," he said with a chuckle. "I'm in great shape. I've worked hard all summer and I'm ready to go." Patrick, a Phoenix native who was fifth on the team in tackles last season, said a lot of players stayed in Las Cruces through the off-season to work out.

"We had a lot of guys here working hard," he said. "You have a few of the younger guys who felt they needed to go home, but there were a lot of people working hard."

Fellow senior Ronshay Jenkins — a 5-7, 147-pound wide receiver from Richmond, Calif. — said he's excited about the upcoming season. The Aggies were 7-5 last year and finished second in the Sun Belt Conference.

"A lot of people might have questions about us because we lost some very good seniors," Jenkins said. "And nothing against those seniors, but the guys we have coming back are really good. It feels like we haven't lost anything. We're going to show everybody how good we are." As they prepared to start their senior seasons, Patrick and Jenkins talked about the evolution of NMSU's football program.

"You can't even put it into words," Jenkins said. "Where this team has come from is just amazing. We've improved so much in the years I've been here. And it just keeps getting better. "That talent you see is getting better and better. Because we keep having success, the recruiting just keeps improving."

The new recruits this year, though, enter a different environment than their predecessors. Instead of a few days of practice before the veteran players report, all players now report at the same time. Programs are not allowed to have two-a-day practices on back-to-back days.

"It's a win-lose situation," Patrick said. "It's nice that we all get to start together, but with the two-a-day situation, they're not going to get as much practice as they usually would have. They're going to have to work hard and really pay attention to make sure they get all they need to know."

The Aggies return to the field again today at 4 p.m. for their first, full practice.

OL Leslie ready to get on the field for Aggies By Felix Chavez Aug 5, 2003, 12:01

Offensive lineman Cole Leslie comes to New Mexico State University with a bit of a nasty streak and enough athleticism to make him a candidate for some serious playing time this season.

The junior college transfer from Glendale (Ariz.) Community College will have a shot at earning a spot in the starting lineup at right tackle, replacing Steve Mascorro, who has used up his college eligibility. Leslie will battle Matt Sanchez and Justin Shopbell, who are at the top of the depth chart as fall practice for the Aggies begins.

"I hope to just come in and help the team out as much as I can," said Leslie, who is 6-foot-7 and weighs 285-pounds. "I feel like this is a good offense for me. The tackles do a lot of pulling on the plays and I feel that is where I can use my athleticism."

Leslie, from Tolleson, Ariz., switched to tackle just three years ago as a high school senior. Before the switch, he played tight end.

"The move wasn't too tough, I was always tall. I just needed to add some weight and I did," Leslie said. "Plus, playing on the line gave me a chance to go out there and bang around some people. I do have a mean streak out there and that's useful on the O-line."

New Mexico State University offensive line coach Kevin Lightner likes Leslie and thinks he can help the team this year.

"Cole is very athletic. He brings a mean streak to his position and I like that," Lightner said. "He'll make a push for time on the line. Actually, we have a lot of guys who can play and it will be a battle for playing time. But we're excited to have Cole on board."

Leslie was recruited by Northern Arizona and Stephen F. Austin. But NMSU was the perfect place for him.

"It just felt right to come to NMSU and it's an up and coming program," Leslie said. "Plus, the offense is fun to play in. There are a lot of different plays and we're capable of putting up some big numbers and that's great. Plus, there have been some pretty good lineman come through here and there are some very good ones here right now."

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