Evah Tohi was on his way to another terrific season, and the four-year college recruiters were watching this hard-tackling linebacker from Glendale (Ariz.) Community College.
“I had interest from Colorado, as well as Arizona State, a little bit Oregon State, Louisville,” Tohi said Friday. “A lot of Power Five (conference) teams.”
In Glendale’s fourth game of the 2015 season, Tohi had made 10 tackles and returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown against New Mexico Military Institute. All was well.
Then, in game five, at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, he tore his left ACL.
Everything changed. The Power Five conference teams walked away, to be replaced by offers from the likes of Houston Baptist, West Texas A&M and Texas A&M-Commerce.
One NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision school, though, continued to show interest: the University of New Mexico. He signed with UNM in April 2016 — only to suffer a torn meniscus at New Mexico State in the second game that fall.
Now, after having participated in just four plays in just one game in the past 23 months, he calls both of his injuries blessings in disguise.
“I’m very eager,” he said after Friday’s practice. “… I’m ready to go out there and compete with the best.”
Tohi, listed at 6-foot-2 and 236 pounds, has consistently played with the No. 2 defense during preseason camp. Lobos coach Bob Davie said there’s no question he’ll see the field this season.
“We’re pleased. He’s a big, physical linebacker,” Davie said. “… Absolutely, he’s going to play.”
Tohi was a standout at North Canyon High School in Phoenix, making 99 tackles as a senior. But, weighing just 215 pounds at the time, he went the junior college route. He made 90 tackles for Glendale as a freshman in 2014.
Last fall, in Las Cruces, he was credited with one tackle before suffering the season-ending meniscus tear. But, as per NCAA rules, his eligibility for his junior year was restored for 2017.
Now, he enters the season with two preseason camps and a spring practice under his belt.
“I do feel blessed,” he said, “just to get another year to get it right, come back stronger, learn the (defensive scheme).”
Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Kevin Cosgrove sees Tohi as an important member of an inside linebackers corps that includes seniors Kimmie Carson and Austin Ocasio, juniors Alex Hart and Siti Tamaivena and sophomore Brandon Shook.
Carson, a returning starter, missed spring practice and has seen limited action through 14 preseason practices. Tamaivena, a junior-college transfer, has had a hamstring injury.
For Tohi, Cosgrove said, “It’s still a learning process until he feels confident in everything he’s doing and he can play full speed every play without hesitation. “But he’s an explosive guy, he’s a good tackler and I like the way he’s coming along.
“I love watching him play, because I know he loves football.”
BEAR ESSENTIALS: Davie’s wife, Joanne, and the couple’s labradoodle, Andi, were surprised — and probably vice versa — by a large black bear Thursday evening outside the couple’s Sandia Heights home.
“A couple of nights in a row, the garbage was turned over,” Davie said. “I thought maybe it was a coyote or something. (Joanne) said, ‘No, I think it was something bigger.'”
At around 7:30 p.m., he said, Joanne and Andi left the house via the front door for an evening walk.
“She comes out on the front porch, and there’s a giant black bear sitting right off the porch, right there,” Davie said.
Eye contact was made, and Andi barked like crazy.
Joanne, Davie said, “made the right decision. She turned and went right back in the house.
“The only bad decision, she didn’t take a picture of the black bear.”
Andi, by the way, turned 8 years old Friday.
FAN PHOTO DAY: The Lobos will practice in Dreamstyle Stadium Saturday, starting at approximately 11 a.m. The players will sign autographs and pose for photos afterward, at approximately 1:15 p.m.
The stadium’s northeast and northwest gates will be open.