New Lobo Coach Mendenhall shows off at spring scrimmage

By Izabella Kubiak

Lobo football followers got a sneak peak of the coming season in mid-April as new head coach Bronco Mendenhall showed off the team in a spring scrimmage. 

Mendenhall, who was once UNM’s defensive coordinator, Brigham Young University’s head coach, and the University of Virginia’s head coach, has rebuilt other collegiate football programs and is looking to sculpt UNM’s program in the same direction.

Mendenhall said he’s proud of the pre-season work the team has been doing out of the spotlight. 

“It’s not always easy to see, but there’s always another story to it,” Mendenhall said. “ So as I watch them play I grow more excited to continue to work with these athletes.”

The team’s new head coach has brought fresh enthusiasm for Lobo football, said Will Price, the senior associate athletic director.

“I think our fans are super excited about what’s to come”,  Price said. “This is one of the largest crowds we’ve had for spring scrimmage in recent years.”

Fans are eager to see if Mendenhall will bring more wins for a team that has struggled in recent years.

“He has a very clear message and a very clear direction about what he wants. A lot of the players as well as the staff want to support him as best as possible,” Price said. “Having fans exposed to the new culture and the new traditions can only benefit the football program.”

After weeks of conditioning and early morning practices, the Lobos tested their efforts under the blazing New Mexico sun at University Stadium April 6. The crowd was draped in cherry and awaited the taste of college ball before the season begins for real this fall. 

During the scrimmage, UNM’s  new starting quarterback Devon Dampier was slinging footballs and connecting in the endzone with wide receiver Luke Wysong and running back Andrew Henry. 

Kickers and punt returners practiced their skills in the heat after the Lobo’s defense forced offensive stops. After the kickers and punt returners completed their tasks, special teams Coach Shane Hunter watched as the defense took over and attempted sacks and tackles in the afternoon sun. 

Jawaun Singletary, an offensive lineman, said Head Coach Mendenhall’s slogan ‘earned not given’ has been good for the team.

“I love it. I love what he stands for, his goals. I love the way he runs our program,”  Singletary said. “Everything is earned, not given, and that is huge for motivation.”

Families, friends, and fans of the Lobos dotted the stadium seats cheering on fourth-down as the offense crawled their way down the field hungry for touchdowns. 

Dampier (left) embracing Gray (right) after the scrimmage. Photo by Jojo Turtle Morales
Gray celebrating after scrimmage concludes. Photo by Jojo Turtle Morales 

Keeping up fan momentum is job #1 for Brandon Ortega, who is in charge of the Lobos football Creative Services.

And that includes marketing the players as individuals to fans. 

“I definitely try to show … what the guys are doing during practice and workouts, and I’m trying to show different sides of their personalities everyday,” Ortega said.

As the fall debut Aug. 24 grows closer, the Lobos will try to prove why UNM should be considered a worthy opponent in the Mountain West this upcoming season under the guidance of Head Coach Mendenhall and staff. 

“Fall is going to be here before we know it,” Ortega said.