Lobo Saltes wanted to play this fall, unsure about next year - Albuquerque Journal

Lobo Saltes wanted to play this fall, unsure about next year

UNM offensive tackle Teton Saltes
JOURNAL FILE

On Friday, Teton Saltes joined his University of New Mexico football teammates and other fellow Lobo atheltes to draw images that called for social equality on the pavement at the Pit parking lot.

If it had been a Friday without racial tension sparked by police brutality or without the coronavirus pandemic, Saltes would have been with his teammates preparing for their season opener that had been scheduled for Saturday. Instead, the season was canceled for the fall, and now the Lobos are hoping there will be a season early in 2021.

“I was definitely disappointed that we didn’t play this year,” said Saltes, a 6-foot-6, 301-pound senior offensive lineman. He said had there been a football season this fall for the Mountain West Conference he would have played.

“There is risk involved in everything we do in life. We have to look at it as how we can get through whatever we’re doing with the least amount of damage. That’s just life in general. How can we mitigate the risk as much as we can?”

Saltes, who was on the watch lists for the Outland Trophy and the Danny Wuerffel Trophy, is the lone UNM football player available to the media at this time.

In early August, UNM wide receiver Elijah Lilly and defensive back Brandon Burton were among several MWC football players who formed a group called Mountain West United that established conditions to ensure safety with regard to playing football amid COVID-19 concerns.

Saltes declined to say if he was a part of the Mountain West United group.

The group included more than 300 MW players, according to an ESPN report, and that would mean on average 25 players per team in the 12-school league.

Saltes said he was greatly concerned about fans attending games, if there was going to be football in the Mountain West.

“Everyone is susceptible to this virus, but I know if anyone has a really good chance of fighting it, it’s probably us players,” Saltes said. “We’re in really good shape. This was a crucial season for guys like me, the seniors, who were looking to play in the NFL. A lot of us needed another year of film, and things like that.”

Saltes said he was unsure if he would play for UNM in the fall of 2021 if there is no spring season. He would have the option of saving this year of eligibility.

PRACTICE AND TESTING: UNM coach Danny Gonzales says the Lobos are in a safe environment when they are practicing and working out at the UNM facilities. When they leave, however, they are challenged to remain mindful of preventing spread of the coronavirus.

The Lobo football players are at the UNM facilities five days a week. In small, separate groups, they work out in the weight room on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Tueday and Thursday, they receive individual instruction outside.

“We’ve given more individual coaching to different groups than in all my 20 years of coaching,” said Gonzales, a former player and assistant for the Lobos, as well as the defensive coordinator at San Diego State and Arizona State. “The freshmen are getting a lot more coaching than they normally would, which is awesome.”

The Lobos must have their temperatures checked before entering the facilities. They also fill out a survey, which can be done on their phones. COVID-19 testing will be done, at a minimum, monthly, Gonzales said, and the frequency will depend on how much interaction the players have.

“As we get into physical contact for practice, then (testing) will be bi-weekly,” Gonzales said. “When we get into game week it will be weekly.”

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