UNLV coach has football roots in NM - Albuquerque Journal

UNLV coach has football roots in NM

Tony Sanchez

UNLV head football coach Tony Sanchez fell in love with New Mexico when he lived in the Land of Enchantment for eight years.

He played as a wide receiver at New Mexico State for two seasons, 1994 and 1995. He was in New Mexico long enough to grow a preference for green chile and wanting an egg on top of almost every meal.

But after his 2003 season as defensive coordinator at Oñate High School, Sanchez said he took “a leap of faith,” to coach at California High in San Ramon, the Bay Area of the Golden State, his original home.

“I knew I wanted to be a head coach,” Sanchez said in a phone interview with the Journal on Wednesday. “I felt like I needed to be in a high-profile area.”

Sanchez, 44, acknowledges that it was a bold move back then. Oñate won the 4A state title in 2002 with head coach Kelly McKee.

“Sometimes you go with your gut,” he said.

Sanchez knows that decision paid off as the California coaching job led to his big-time prep gig at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, Nev., and then to where he is now, in his fourth season as head coach at UNLV. He believes this can be his best year yet with the Rebels (2-2), who play host to New Mexico (2-2) on Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.

Sanchez always wants to beat the Lobos, going back to his days as an Aggie. He went 0-2 against UNM, but he points out that he had a great game his senior year when he went for five catches, two of them for touchdowns.

That was among his great memories at NMSU, where he decided he would become a football coach. He worked as a graduate assistant for Jim Hess and stayed on the Aggies’ staff when Hess was replaced by Tony Samuel, who is the current defensive line coach for UNLV. The Rebels’ coaching staff also includes offensive coordinator Barney Cotton, who served in that same role at NMSU, 1997-2002. Longtime Sanchez friend Sean Manuel is the Rebels’ strength and conditioning coach. Sanchez and Manuel played football together at NMSU.

Coaching wasn’t so steady early on for Sanchez in New Mexico.

He took a one-year hiatus and worked as a salesman for a copypaper-machine company. He said he did well but missed football.

Sanchez said he never really thought he would become an NCAA Division I coach, and that he had planned to be a high school coach and special education teacher. He says the path has been a blessing.

Now he’s at the peak of his coaching career and UNLV has improved each year since he has arrived — three wins in his first year, four in his second and five last year.

Sanchez is now saying the Rebels are capable of reaching a bowl game this season and can contend for a MWC West Division title. Sanchez still believes, even after his starting quarterback, Armani Rogers, went down with a toe injury and will miss the next six weeks. Rogers led UNLV to a 2-2 record, with wins over UTEP and Prairie View A&M. He is No. 8 in the nation in rushing with 122 yards per game.

But Sanchez has confidence in Rogers’ replacement Max Gilliam, a Cal signee who starred at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., before going to UNLV. Gilliam is not the runner Rogers is but Gilliam can do some things that Rogers could not, Sanchez said.

“Max is a good football player,” Sanchez said. “He’s going to be just fine. Nothing is going to be easy in conference. The margin of victory is so small. It’s possible (for UNLV to make a bowl game).”

Home » Sports » College » Football » UNLV coach has football roots in NM

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
Camp in session: UNM basketball players get experience coaching ...
ABQnews Seeker
Monday, at the Pit, 75 3rd ... Monday, at the Pit, 75 3rd through 7th graders were wide eyed and excited to be learning from their favorite Lobo basketball stars.
Can rivalry games be saved? UNM, NMSU swap facility ...
ABQnews Seeker
Amid a rare offseason flare-up of ... Amid a rare offseason flare-up of rivalry drama, UNM and NMSU on Monday made progress toward getting their hoops rivalry going again.
Pipeline from this surprising school produces more transfers to ...
ABQnews Seeker
This week, two new transfer announcements ... This week, two new transfer announcements in as many days amounted to (unofficially) two new Lobos in former Alabama State running back Jacory Merritt ...
Former Lobos basketball coach Yvonne Sanchez has new (and ...
Former UNM head and assistant women’s ... Former UNM head and assistant women’s basketball coach Yvonne Sanchez was re-hired by Arizona State this week as a special assistant to Natasha Adair. ...
New Mexico State women's basketball adds Hall of Famer ...
ABQnews Seeker
Hall of Famer Bridgette Gordon is ... Hall of Famer Bridgette Gordon is joining the New Mexico State women's basketball staff, the school said Friday.
HED's message to UNM and New Mexico State: Cooperate ...
ABQnews Seeker
The state's Higher Education Department wants ... The state's Higher Education Department wants the rivalry games between the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State men's basketball teams to continue. ...
Basketball impasse: New Mexico State reaches out to UNM ...
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico State spoke with University ... New Mexico State spoke with University of New Mexico Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez Wednesday about concerns Nuñez has voiced about security in the Pan ...
New UNM basketball assistant Katsuma reunites with Pitino, replaces ...
ABQnews Seeker
Former Colorado State staffer Aaron Katsuma ... Former Colorado State staffer Aaron Katsuma has replaced Eric Brown as the new assistant coach for the UNM Lobos.
Local golf: Standout UNM men's, women's teams fueled by ...
Sometimes, things just go hand-in-hand.For instance: ... Sometimes, things just go hand-in-hand.For instance: New Mexico women's golf finished ...