"The bus leaves at 7:30am sharp" the notice read. Who do these guys think they are, football coaches or something? Am I a player again? I guess these are some of the random thoughts that go through your head when you get up at 5:00am to get down to the "Tow" for the annual First Team golf outing. For the uninformed, The Rock has a group of football boosters that are willing to put their proverbial money where there mouths are to give the football program the additional financial support to put it on top. With the annual dues Coach Long has discretionary income to spend as he sees fit. If the need arises he does not have to go through the long and cumbersome RFP (request for proposals) process that plagues all government entities when trying to move fast.
As the bus rolls out of the parking lot, the almost 60 persons (coaches and First Team) are in a good mood; and why not as Gavin Bevis, longtime director of football operations, has arranged a two day trip to Durango Colorado to play at two different courses. Over the past five years the First Team has played golf with the coaches in San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Ruidoso. During the bus trip The Rock is up and tending to his guests. He won't allow you to get your drinks. He will get it for you! I think this is what makes Rocky Long so endearing to so many people. He is not afraid to be "one of the guys" and have fun. Jokes and high spirits abound and before you know it we are pulling into the Glacier Club (formerly Tamaron) and then to the back courses that have only been open for a short time. The teams consist of three First Team members and one coach. In my group was Coach Troy Reffett, corner backs coach going on two years, Gordon Rowe a local attorney and member of the APS School Board, and Jim Grebel who's company provides the cool semi-trailer that is all Lobo'ed out and carries the teams gear on the road. The trailer is one of the contributions that the First Team makes that is visible. If you have seen it you will never forget it. During the back nine Coach Long joins us for a couple of holes and his tee shots are amazing! He hits the ball like his name, LONG! Our team hustles for some birdies and we think we are in the hunt for first place!
Lobo CB Coach
Lobo CB Coach Troy Reffett
After the shotgun start tournament is over the Glacier Club put on a first class outdoor dinner party complete with hummingbirds that dive in for dinner at their own guest setting just inches from my head. During dinner the video plays highlights from last years team while good natured ribbing is directed at Bob Toledo's team who had 11UNDER par. Looks like Coach Toledo put his recent stint as FORMER head coach at UCLA to serious use. I hope he calls plays as good as he golfs! Part of the fun of First Team is that we get to ask every coach ANY question we want and they respond. During the dinner Coach Long asked his three coordinators to say a few words.
First up was coach Dan Dodd to talk about special teams. He told us that the re-working of the team will improve the performance on the field in many ways. With five coaches each having a different responsibility, there will be more eyes and more accountability.
Coach Osia Lewis, Defensive coordinator, was up next. He talked about the loss of senior leadership last year and how that will affect the defense early. Osia said it will be real quite on the field with the departure of corner stalwart Gabe Fullbright and his full throttle mouth! He thinks the addition of the two Lobo backs will pay immediate dividends by making the defense more flexible, or as he put it, the Lobo defense can run any look, from a 2-6-3 alignment to the 3-3-5 look that changed the face of college defenses.
Of course The Rock had Bob Toledo, the new offensive coordinator, on the hot seat last. He is a man of amazing wit and charm. The first thing he did is tell a story about how his father was from Toledo, Spain. His father came to the USA with two promises; 1, to learn English, and 2, to become a millionaire. Coach Toledo finished by saying that his dad did both by learning just three words..."STICK ‘EM UP"!! Getting down to business he said that the offense has a great deal of work ahead in filing the shoes of three great Lobos; Ryan Cook, Hank Baskett III and DonTrell Moore. He also lamented the loss of Terrance Pennington who looks set to make an NFL roster in Buffalo. That is why it will be "by committee" on offense. The Coaches have a nickname for Bob Toledo but I am not at liberty to divulge that information...kinda like what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, only what happens on First Team outings is rarely worth the secrecy except for the unlimited access to the coaches on the condition of silence of the lambs, so to speak!
Lobo Brian Urlacher promises money to his "old" coach
and the university that started him to NFL stardom!
Lobo Brian Urlacher promises money to his "old" coach and the university that started him to NFL stardom!
The next day some played golf at Dalton Ranch while others nursed themselves back to health at local eateries. We met for lunch at the Clubhouse and then boarded the bus, homeward bound. On the return trip I asked Rocky about the Indoor Practice Facility (IPF) and when we can expect the steel to fly. He told me that it will be completed anywhere from 12-15 months into the future. Roger Lujan, the University architect and outgoing AD Rudy Davalos thought it best to leave the logistics and details to the new sheriff, Paul Krebs, who brings a wealth of experience in this area to his new job. After all his tenure includes a stint at The Ohio State University and they know a little about football. Rocky told me that Brian Urlacher will step up LARGE for UNM and his gift will insure the continuing first class operation of the IPF. Even from Chicago, Brian remembers his roots and gives back when it counts! Finally, I asked The Rock about the move this Spring to divide the time up between the practice fields and University Stadium a/k/a Rocky and Debby Long Stadium during drills. He said that it had a two fold purpose; to not wear out the practice fields and to get the team used to playing in the stadium so that sour taste of the three home defeats last year can finally be purged beginning September 2, 2006 versus Portland State.As your intrepid road/golf warrior wandered home I could not keep myself from almost laughing out loud while remembering the antics of the trip .This fall, when Lobo football fans don their Cherry and Silver to go road tripping, maybe they will return from road victories with the same smiles and good memories