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Gonzales brings back Night of Champions

Danny Gonzales

University of New Mexico football coach Danny Gonzales continues to vow the Lobos will win their fifth conference championship “before I’m done or they’re going to fire me if I don’t.”

He believes reviving traditions like the Night of Champions will help reach that goal. He’s talking about UNM’s weightlifting competition event that will take place in University Stadium Tuesday at 6 p.m. There will be platforms for the players who will be competing in the power clean, bench and squat lifts. The event is free admission. Fans are required to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

Gonzales, a former UNM player and assistant coach, wanted to have the Night of Champions last year, but the coronavirus pandemic wiped out half of his spring practices and gave the Lobos no chance of having the adrenaline show of strength among teammates.

When it comes to strength, Gonzales says the Lobos have a long way to go because of the challenges stemming from the pandemic. The players basically spent 2020 without lifting weights. Even when they relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada, for the shortened season, the team did not ship weights for their stay at the hotel. Gonzales is regretful of that.

But the Lobos have gotten “substantially stronger” in regard to weight training since January. They finished the 2020 season 2-5, but built momentum toward the end of the season with two straight wins. The Lobos carried that momentum in the offseason, welcoming back 14 seniors and adding big-time transfers such as quarterback Terry Wilson (Kentucky), linebacker Jeffrey Blake (San Diego State) and offensive lineman Jack Buford and wide receiver Cjay Boone from Missouri.

“We’re hoping to hit the number of 15 or 16 guys that go over 300 pounds on the power clean,” Gonzales said when he spoke to the media outside of the Tow Diehm facility Monday. “In our heyday around here when coach (Rocky) Long was head coach we had 41 at one time.”

The Night of Champions started in 1992 under coach Dennis Franchoine and continued with Long, and in the late ’90s Gonzales was a player for the Lobos and later an assistant.

Gonzales remembers what the atmosphere of teammates, fans and family cheering him on can bring about: a beast.

Gonzales set a personal-best 340 pounds on the power clean when he weighed about 200 pounds as a defensive back.

He said the Night of Champions helped.

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