MWC football media day: Rocky still cares about Lobos - Albuquerque Journal

MWC football media day: Rocky still cares about Lobos

San Diego State head football coach Rock Long speaks to the media at the Mountain West Conference Football Media Days in Henderson, Nev. on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. (Steve Virgen/Journal)

HENDERSON, Nev. — Rocky Long still cares deeply about his alma mater.

The University of New Mexico alumnus who is San Diego State’s football head coach made that much very obvious Tuesday during the opening of the Mountain West Conference media days at Green Valley Ranch Resort Spa & Casino in Henderson, Nev.

“I don’t know the (UNM) football program very well,” said Long, who coached at UNM 1998-2008 and compiled a 65-69 record with the Lobos. “But I have some really good friends who live in Albuquerque that help me keep track of what’s going on at least from their point of view.

“I know that the athletic department is struggling, the budget and the money they owe, and the sports they dropped. Being an alumni, that’s always sad to see them struggle like that.”

Long feels that it is in his nature to want to help the Lobos, but he’s dedicated to the Aztecs. He wasn’t specific in what he can do, but he remains concerned about UNM.

“Other than when we play each other I always want to help any way I can,” said Long, who is the winningest coach in Mountain West history with 136 wins. (Air Force’s Troy Calhoun is next with 87 wins). “Obviously wherever you played, if you had a decent experience, you always have a connection with your school. I had friends that I played with who are still in Albuquerque, so I still have a connection. If there was something you could do in a legitimate way that doesn’t affect where you are working now, I would do whatever I could.”

Just a few weeks ago, Long said he was in Albuquerque, as he usually is at least one time during the year to catch up, “with my buds,” and stay connected with UNM via those friends.

Long said it’s his routine to visit Albuquerque for a day on his way to his condo in Durango, Colo. He bought the condo while he was coaching at UNM.

TUIOTI CONNECTION: UNM quarterback Tevaka Tuioti has at least two supporters — from opposing teams, no less — for him to win the starting job.

Quarterbacks Josh Love of San Jose State and Cole McDonald of Hawaii know Tuioti from their high school days in Southern California and remain fond of the dynamic athlete who struggled with injuries last season.

Tuioti was actually Love’s backup when Love was a senior at Long Beach Poly and Tuioti was a sophomore before the latter transferred to La Mirada.

“Great kid, man,” Love said of Tuioti. “He came in during the first round of the playoffs my senior year, against Servite in the playoffs. We were up and I hurt my shoulder and I could not throw. They went up with about 3 minutes left. Tevaka goes in and leads us down and wins the game. As a sophomore. Pretty unbelievable story.”

The Lobos play at San Jose State on Oct. 4, which could be a great story if both Tuioti and Love are starting. And it will be a high-school type setting as the game is Friday night at 7.

McDonald, who played at Sonora High in La Habra, knew Tuioti from summer passing leagues and also from working with the same quarterback coach, Steve Calhoun.

McDonald echoed what many Lobo teammates say of Tuioti, saying that the redshirt sophomore quarterback is “fun to be around.”

McDonald had two words of advice for Tuioti.

“Ball out,” McDonald said. “I know that he can play. He’s such an athlete. I hope the best for him.”

McDonald and Hawaii’s high-powered offense visit Dreamstyle Stadium Oct. 26.

Tuioti will be vying for the Lobos’ starting quarterback job with senior Sheriron Jones, who started seven games last season, redshirt freshman Trae Hall and junior college transfer Brandt Hughes.

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