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November 4, 2011Carmen Messina remembers the first time he saw Rocky Long.
“I came to a practice during my official visit,” Messina said. “It was an intimidating experience. Coach Long is one of those coaches who you don’t want to mess with and who you respect right away. He had a lot of energy. He was fired up.”
After practice, Messina met Long in his office.
“It was a little intimidating sitting with him alone in his office ,” Messina said. “I kept thinking that this was the same guy who was out on the field yelling at his players, getting the most from them.”
Lobos kicker James Aho remembers the first time he met the former UNM head football coach. The one-time high school soccer player from Roswell was beginning a try-out session.
“I was kicking field goals and Coach Long came up to me and started speaking garbage in my ear to intimidate me,” Aho said with a smile. “That was the first time he talked to me. I made all five field goals that morning and afterward he came up to me, patted me on the back and said ‘good job.’”
Saturday will be the final time the two will meet their old coach as Lobos. Messina and Aho are both seniors and Long, who coached the Lobos to five bowl games from 1998-2008, is in his first year as head coach of the San Diego State Aztecs. After he left UNM, Long was SDSU’s defensive coordinator for two years.
“It will be great to see Coach Long again,” Messina said. “I’m sure I’ll see him before game time and we’ll say hi to each other.”
Long’s time with the Lobos isn’t the only connection between the two programs. San Diego State cornerbacks coach Tony White, was an assistant at UNM; Safeties coach Daniel Gonzales played for Long at UNM from 1996-98 and SDSU graduate assistant Zach Arnett was a Lobo linebacker from 2005-08.
There is also SDSU defensive line coach Osia Lewis, who was UNM’s defensive coordinator from 2003-07, and also Messina’s recruiting coach.
“It’ll be nice to see them all again,” said Messina. “But we didn’t go there for a reunion.”
At 0-8 overall, 0-3 in Mountain West Conference play, the Lobos are starving for a win. If nothing else, to give the current group of seniors something to hang their helmets on.
“It’s been a tough year, no doubt,” said Aho. “We had goals this season of becoming bowl eligible. Now we just want a win.”
It’ll be tough for the Lobos to crack into the win column this week. The Lobos haven’t scored a touchdown since the 6:38 mark of the fourth quarter at Nevada on Oct. 15. In