University of New Mexico football coach Bob Davie took some deep breaths at times, cracked a few jokes and expressed gratitude for being alive and well on Tuesday, his first press conference since his health scare on the night of the Lobos’ season opener.
As he stood at a podium, the dominant topic of conversation was Davie’s well being – not as much about the 1-0 Lobos’ game Saturday at No. 7 Notre Dame that was to be his return to face the school he once coached.
Davie declined to reveal the specifics what happened to him on Aug. 31 – UNM called it “a serious medical incident,” – after the Lobos defeated Sam Houston State 39-31 at Dreamstyle Stadium.
But he did tell the Journal that he experienced discomfort during the game while on the sideline – he could be seen clutching his torso from time to time – and afterward collapsed in the locker room. He was about to begin his walk to the media room on the second floor for his postgame press conference.
Davie on Tuesday thanked the UNM training room staff, including Bob Waller, the head athletic trainer, and his assistant Craig Hendrickson, as well as team doctors Matthew Tennison, Andrew Hyden and nurse Sonrisa Garcia. He also thanked UNM Hospital doctors Mark Sheldon and Mohammed Al-Kubeysi.
“I’m not being too dramatic by saying that they saved my life,” said Davie, who will be 65 on Sept. 30. “My family will forever be appreciative. … I absolutely saw the very best of UNM. We should be so grateful, I know I am, to have a hospital like (UNMH).”
Davie’s son Clay, UNM’s tight end coach, saw his father being tended to by training room staff in the locker room.
“It was definitely a surreal moment,” Clay Davie said. “Definitely scary when you see that. … The immediate action limited the damage to Coach. It was definitely surreal that it happened, but fortunate of where it happened because of the medical staff around. They were treating him right away.”
Bob Davie, a former Notre Dame head coach and defensive coordinator, will not coach Saturday and, as a result, is not making the trip. He said he doesn’t want to be a distraction.
“This is all about the players,” the UNM head coach said. “It’s all about the coaches going to South Bend.”
Bob Davie has appointed offensive line coach Saga Tuitele, who turns 40 on Sunday, as acting coach for this game.
Bob Davie said he “absolutely” expects to resume to his normal duties as head coach again. He was with the Lobos for the last half of the practice on Tuesday.
He said he never had high blood pressure and has never dealt with high cholesterol.
“I’ve never taken as much as an aspirin,” he said. “This came out of nowhere.
“I’m smart enough to know when I’m right and when I’m not. I’m not going to come charging back down the hill right away until I feel 100 percent.”
Davie said the Lobos need to continue to improve on the field, and he is confident they will show pride in a game against a ranked opponent with rich tradition.
He also said Saturday is “about the money,” as UNM will be receiving $1.1 million for the game that was set up in 2015 (the first $50,000 of the payout was transferred to UNM in the fall of 2015 after signing the contract).
Davie plans to watch the game from his home. He said he has great confidence in Tuitele and the coaching staff.
He also has great memories of Notre Dame, but he’s OK staying back.
“It’s a lot better than the alternative,” he said. “There’s a lot more football to watch. It’s one game in a long career. I don’t want to be selfish. This game was never about me. … I don’t need to be there.”
INJURIES: Senior defensive tackle Aaron Blackwell, a team captain, is out for the year with an ACL injury after suffering the damage to his right knee in the season opener, Davie said. Blackwell will have surgery later this month.
Quarterback Brandt Hughes, who started in the season opener, sustained a shoulder injury to his right throwing arm and will not play on Saturday, said Davie. UNM is unsure if Hughes will need surgery.